With better road connectivity and an expanding offer of tour packages, the number of Cambodians visiting neighbouring Vietnam during holidays or for medical purposes has boomed in the last few years, industry insiders said.
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Men Doeun, a tour guide now showing Cambodian tourists around Da Nang, in central Vietnam, said good relations between the governments, better transportation infrastructure and affordable holiday packages have allowed more Cambodians to vacation in Vietnam.
“Higher incomes are allowing more and more Cambodians to travel abroad, with many choosing Vietnam as their destination,” he said.
Mr Men said his company, CH World Travel, works with Vietnamese travel agencies to create cheap packages geared specifically to Cambodians. They range from $200 to $300 in price, depending on the destinations and the number of days.
“I think people end up saving a lot of money through these packages, as travelling independently often ends up being more expensive,” he said.
Most Cambodians choose to visit Vietnam during the Chinese and the Khmer New Year, he added.
Son Phuoc Tai, a Vietnamese tour guide based in Ho Chi Minh City, said that better road and air connectivity is making it possible for more Cambodians to visit Vietnam, but that the number of Cambodian tourists in the country is still small compared to tourism numbers in the other direction.
“There are still many more Vietnamese tourists in Cambodia than Cambodian tourists in Vietnam,” he said.
“Right now, the most popular destination in Cambodia among Vietnamese tourists is the Angkor archaeological temple in Siem Reap, which, like Halong Bay in Northern Vietnam, is also a Unesco-listed site,” he said.
Despite both countries enjoying cordial relations, Mr Son said there is little cooperation between the governments in the tourism sector.
“More should be done to encourage the creation of low-cost carriers to connect popular destinations in both countries,” he added.
Roth Chamroeun, a Kampong Chnang resident now in Ho Chi Minh City seeking medical treatment at a hospital, said he was very surprised by the level of economic development in the Vietnamese city, as well as by the large number of Cambodian tourists.
“I only came here for a medical check-up but then I decided to prolong my stay because the country has so many beautiful destinations, including great beaches like the ones in Cambodia,” he said, adding that he intends to visit Da Nang next.
“It is my first time in a city with such good infrastructure. I am very impressed,” he said.
“Cambodia has many attractive destinations like Angkor Wat and Sihanoukville, but Vietnam is better organised with very good roads, beautiful surroundings and very competitive prices,” he said, adding that Cambodians “should learn from them.”
Last year, Cambodia welcomed 5.6 million foreign tourists, an increase of 11.8 percent. Vietnam was second in terms of tourists by nationality, behind China. More than 830,000 Vietnamese visited the Kingdom last year, according to the Cambodian Tourism Ministry.
Nearly 1.7 million Cambodians travelled abroad last year, a hike of 22 percent compared to the previous year.