New Year Celebrations Draw Nearly 22m Visits

Cambodians and foreigners celebrated Khmer New Year at Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh capital. Photo: Moeurn Makthong

PHNOM PENH – Tourism destinations welcomed more than 21.7 million national visitors and about 110,000 foreign visitors between April 13 and 16.

The number was a big rise on the three-day celebration last year when there were 13.1 million visitors, of whom about 55,000 were foreigners.

To avoid confusion when compared with the 17 million population, Tourism Ministry spokesperson Top Sopheak said provincial administrations counted the number of people and the number of times they travelled.

He said there were two types of tourists: travelers and visitors.

“People could have visited many places on those four days. Therefore, the number was recorded at the destinations they went to,” he said.

During the Khmer New Year, there was a dramatic and greater than expected rise in travel by national visitors but the flow of international tourists increased more slowly.

One reason was the hot weather. The favorable period for international tourists is between November and December when the weather is cooler, Sopheak said.

However, he believed that the number of international tourists might increase to pre-COVID levels this year.

This year Kampong Cham province welcomed more than 5.3 million visitors, making it the most attractive location for Khmer New Year celebrations. Prey Veng province was second with 2.2 million visits.

Kampong Speu province attracted more than 2.1 million visits, while Battambang hosted more than 1.7 million. Phnom Penh welcomed around 1.3 million.

With only 20,141 tourists, Koh Kong province ended up being the least visited area again. As for other coastal provinces, Preah Sihanouk saw nearly 650,000 visitors; Kampot attracted 1.4 million tourists, while nearly 160,000 people visited Kep.

In Siem Reap province, the number fell from 2.1 million visitors last year to only 1.2 million this year.

The Union Youth Federations of Cambodia did not hold the Angkor Sangkranta in Siem Reap this year. Therefore, most people took part in their provincial event, while some travelled to the nearest celebration locations.

Among those, only 30 percent of visitors stayed more than one night at the destination. Din Somethearith, Cambodia Tourism Federation president, said the structures of celebration has improved, as each province was also holding the Sangkranta event.

“Some foreign tourists wanted to explore a destination deeper, especially the temples. So, they usually spend more nights at the accommodation. Meanwhile, most Cambodians prefer visiting as many places as possible, so they travel a lot,” he said.

“When there's travelling, there must be expenses, and that is the driving force for the economy. However, the money will also return to the locals, contributing to the livelihood.”

Siem Reap province, on the other hand, remained attractive to tourists, with New Year-themed decorations, cultural performances, and especially water and powder splashing.

Therefore, the provincial tourism will not be affected by the absence of an Angkor Sangkranta as other programs took place in the province.

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