Phnom Penh's humble cyclo, the workhorse of the city's public transport system, is
the key to a local businessman's plan to market organized cyclo tours as a road to
Hok Chan Thy puts his new cyclo through a road test.
San Marin, manager of the newly-founded Cyclo Tour Company (CTC), is set to launch
a new generation of specially re-fitted cyclos piloted by uniformed, English speaking
drivers to cater to the capital's widening tourist market.
"I hope that these cyclos can attract tourists to ride them," Marin told
the Post. "The key is that our cyclos are attractive and have fair prices guaranteed."
The traditional cyclo was introduced during the French Protectorate era and has seen
its market dominance steadily eroded by motorcycle taxis. Cyclos are increasingly
relegated to market goods conveyance duty and overpriced riverside bar-hopping.
To distinguish their cyclos from the mass of more downmarket competition, CTC has
invested in 10 specially-built cyclos complete with a sun roof for the drivers. Costing
$200 each to make, the CTC cyclos' distinctive red color matches that of the drivers'
crisp new uniforms.
According to Marin, CTC drivers are being selected on the basis of cyclo experience,
sensitivity to traffic rules and English language ability.
In return, CTC offers a flat salary of $40 a month plus accommodation, and bonuses
for high mileage.
For CTC cyclo driver recruit Hok Chan Thy, 25, who has been pedaling cyclos around
the city since he was 15 years old, initial reaction to test runs the company has
made around the city have been extremely positive.
"[Tourists] admire our cyclos," Chan Thy said of the public response to
date. "They say they are beautiful, and offer us tips."
Marin says CTC will officially hit the road in the coming weeks, stationing themselves
outside hotels and popular restaurants. Drivers will be instructed in how to assist
tourists find their way around the city and display tour rates, which start at $2
Local tour agencies are already expressing interest in the potential of adding city
cyclo tours to tourist packages of the city.
"I'm happy that they are setting this up," said Tan Sotho, Director of
Hanuman Tourism in Phnom Penh. "We will advise tourists to use [CTC] cyclos
during the rainy season to visit the river front and other popular destinations."
If their Phnom Penh venture proves successful, CTC has plans to develop similar cyclo
tour operations in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.