Phnom Penh may have been a ghost town during the Khmer New Year celebrations, but provincial hotels and restaurants flourished, giving the country’s rural areas an economic infusion.
Many Phnom Penh residents hail from the provinces and their holiday homecoming gives towns and villages outside the capital an important economic boost, economist Chan Sophal said.
Some provincial areas haven’t seen the same benefits from recent economic growth, but during the holidays “money can transfer to the provincial people,” Chan Sophal said.
Some provincial businesses reported good sales as late as April 18 and some said this year’s holiday was particularly good financially.
Hotels in Ratanakkiri province were so busy during the holiday and after, that they had to turn away customers, who were forced to stay at pagodas or with relatives, said Tra Nuth Sean, director of the provincial tourism department. Business was strongest from April 11 to 16, he said.
“This year the tourists came here much more than in other years. It was four times more busy than in a normal day,” Tra Nuth Sean said, adding that better roads helped the influx of out-of-town visitors. Though some business owners closed their shops over the holiday, others stayed open to capitalize on the windfall, he said.
Many of Ratanakkiri’s nine hotels and nine guesthouses raised their rates to cash in on the holiday trade, he added.
Nay Kim, owner of the Tribal Hotel in Banlung town, said she raised room rates 30 percent as the demand increased and turned only a few people away.
Normally the hotel is only 40 percent full, she said.
Mang Youda, vice-president of the tourism department in Koh Kong province, said that tourist numbers doubled compared to last year’s holiday.
“We have fresh air here, safe roads and bridges which are easy to travel,” she said of Koh Kong’s growing popularity.
Loeun Samphan, owner of Phkay Preuk restaurant in Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district, said it was April 15 and 16 that produced the most business for him, with some 200 people visiting on each day, compared to half that normally.
“I earned about $1,000 per day [on those days],” he said.
Heang Chantha, owner of the Seng Leang Hour restaurant in Kompong Chhang province, said that business increased by 80 percent over normal days especially April 13 and 14.
“Most of the customers came as tourists or were visiting their homeland and some were visiting their friends,” she said.