Higher living standards and incomes coupled with attractive tour packages are prompting more and more Cambodians to travel abroad, with outbound tourism numbers rising by almost 14 percent last year, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
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The latest report from the ministry shows that 1.9 million Cambodians travelled outside the country in 2018, a 13.9 percent year-on-year hike.
Chuk Chumnor, spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism, told Khmer Times that the ministry attributes the rise in outbound tourists to better wages and greater disposable income, while it also highlights the role that tour packages are playing.
“More Cambodians are travelling abroad because they are enjoying better living standards and higher incomes, and have access to attractive tour packages,” Mr Chumnor said.
He said local and international travel agencies are teaming up to temp Cambodian travellers with competitive tour packages. While packages to faraway destinations may be pricey, some travel agents offer packages to China starting at just $300 per person, he pointed out.
“The most popular destinations are China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia but there are also some Cambodians choosing Europe, Australia, the United States, and other destinations outside the region,” Mr Chumnor said.
The main reasons Cambodians travel abroad are shopping, medical checkups, and business, Mr Chumnor said.
“The safety of tourists is a priority for the Ministry of Tourism. All travel agents must follow the existing regulation, including sending information of their tour packages to the ministry. If they offer something different from what they submitted, we will take action if customers complain,” Mr Chumnor said.
He described the growth in outbound Cambodian tourists as remarkable, particularly during long holidays like Water Festival, Khmer New Year and Chinese New Year.
Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Cambodia chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said there is also a downside to the rise of outbound tourism, most notably medical tourism, which generates huge losses for local health service providers.
“Cambodians spend millions of dollars every year on medical services abroad, which is a big loss for local players in the medical sector,” he said.
The tourism sector earned $4.3 billion in revenue last year, an increase of around 20 percent, according to the Ministry of Tourism. Last year 6.2 million international travellers visited the Kingdom, a 10.7 percent year-on-year increase.
Cambodia expects to welcome 6.7 million foreign tourists this year. By 2020, 7 million international travellers will visit the Kingdom every year, generating more than $5 billion in revenue and 1 million jobs, according to the ministry.