Tourism See Outbound Growth

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Cambodians are increasingly travelling both within their own country and abroad for leisure on rising disposable incomes and a social media-fuelled desire to explore new places, local tourism industry experts have said.

Speaking yesterday at a curtain-raiser for the upcoming Cambodia International Travel Fair, to take place in Phnom Penh next October, Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Cambodian chapter for the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) said there has been a steady increase in the number of Cambodians travelling in recent years.

“The number of Cambodians travelling is increasing year by year, and now they are not only travelling within the country, but also to neighbouring countries,” he said.

He said Thailand and Vietnam are the most-visited countries, followed by Singapore and Malaysia.

Ministry of Tourism data show the number of Cambodian outbound tourists topped 1.18 million for the period of January to October this year, a 20 percent increase over the same period last year.

According to figures obtained from the Ministry of Tourism in Thailand, 564,549 Cambodians visited the country in the first 10 months of 2016, compared with 433,352 for the same period in 2015, representing a 39 percent increase.

Sreat Mom Sophear, founder of Sophiya Travel & Tours, said her company organises more and more trips for Cambodians planning holidays abroad. She noted that Cambodians, compared with travellers from other countries in the region, prefer to travel in large groups, also contributing to a sharp increase in outbound tourists.

“Our peoples’ perception is that travelling is not a happy occasion if we don’t all go together,” she said. “So we see the number of outbound tourists now increasing significantly because of the trend of going in large groups.”

Sophear said most of her customers chose to travel in the region, with 60 percent of Cambodians using her agency to book trips to other countries in ASEAN and usually spending less than $1,000 per trip. The remainder spend larger sums to travel to destinations further afield, such as Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea or Europe.

Growing internet connectivity is broadening the world view of Cambodians and driving up demand for international travel, explained Sophear.

“In the Facebook era, many people like to show off their lifestyle by posting places that they visit on social media,” she said. “This makes people follow each other and dare others to explore the rest of the world.”

Pen Ratha, a 34-year-old NGO worker who has travelled to more than 20 countries for both business and leisure, represents a new group of well-travelled Cambodians who no longer rely on travel agents. He explained that extensive travel experience has given him the confidence to book trips by himself.

“Now, the information about places to visit, prices of hotels, and restaurants is no longer a barrier for us,” Ratha said.

He added that he usually travels in a group of about 10 people, with his whole family, and his friends.

“We have already visited the neighbouring countries and most of ASEAN region,” he said. “We still plan to travel more to explore the world and our next destinations will be Korea and Japan, as well Taiwan.”

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