Novel Destinations Draw New Year Travelers

Better roads and new events drew Khmer New Year celebrants to traditionally less busy provinces like Mondolkiri, Kompong Thom and Svay Rieng this year, as the number of visitors to more established destinations like Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk provinces also rose, according to estimates from the Tourism Ministry.

The number of domestic tourists visiting new destinations like Mondolkiri and Kompong Thom went up roughly 42 and 57 percent respectively over the year before, while Siem Reap and coastal areas like Preah Sihanouk and Kampot provinces saw increases of 25 to 35 percent over last year, according to statistics posted to the ministry’s website.

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Khmer New Year revelers in Cambodia welcome the Year of the Rooster, in a photograph posted to the Tourism Ministry’s Facebook page.

“We have seen that the majority of the visitors were Cambodians, although we have not received data from all provinces during the New Year,” said Kong Sopheareak, director of the ministry’s department of statistics.

The estimates were based on provincial officials’ measurements of road traffic and surveys of popular tourist attractions and were therefore not as reliable as international arrivals, he said.

A pumping techno-and-water party at Sangkranta Svay Rieng festival boosted visitor arrivals, with about 80,000 visitors compared to roughly 1,200 the year before, according to figures posted on the Tourism Ministry’s website.

Siem Reap province, which laid on the fifth rendition of the popular Angkor Sangkranta, retained its status as the Khmer New Year hotspot with more than 1.8 million visitors, a rise of 25 percent compared to last year.

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said the numbers were in line with broader domestic travel trends in which rising incomes as well as better infrastructure and access to information saw Cambodians exploring their country.

“Cambodians are eager to explore new tourist spots in Cambodia, but in the past, information was limited and the roads were also not as good,” she said.

Tourists who once celebrated abroad were also considering domestic options, she said, as regional festivals and events provide more choice and new destinations.

“In the past, the New Year was very quiet with very few celebrations, so even the locals did not know where to visit,” she said.

“I really hope we can organize such events in every province in the future so visitors can pick new places to go.”

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