Higher disposable income alters domestic travel appetite

Poovenraj Kanagaraj and Sok Chan

Higher disposal income among Cambodians has changed the appetite in holiday plans including full service hotels and activities for children, boosting growth in domestic tourist travels.

Higher disposable income among Cambodians has changed the appetite in holiday plans including full service hotels and activities for children, boosting growth in domestic tourist travels. This is backed by improved roads and increased tourism packages, says homegrown hotel booking platform Bayonia.com sales and marketing manager Vannak Sen.

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“Some of the most visited destinations in 2018 were Siem Reap, Battambang, Kampot, Kep and Koh Kong, and the northeast. We are seeing higher bookings among Cambodians in recent years,” he says.

Bayonia.com offers locals, mainly families a curated choice of luxury hotels and guesthouses. “Local tourists no longer wait for long holidays to make trips to provinces. Families travel on weekends or public holidays now,” Sen tells Capital Cambodia, adding that there is a shift in appetite for luxury homes instead of budget guesthouses.

Cambodians are looking for more luxury offerings such as swimming pool, parking space and activities for children. Families want to make full use of their accommodation, in terms of activities to occupy their children’s time.

“People want to experience new things. From our survey, we notice that they were not aware of reasonable rates one offered by luxury hotels. The rising middle income status is evident as Cambodians are now able to spend more,” he adds.

On average, the site sees 100 bookings every month with booking expenditure ranging between $30 and $40 for room bookings.

Based on data, Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA) advisor Ho Vandy says tourists are willing to spend $75 to $100 per night.

“We see local tourists targeting three to five-star hotels resorts,” he adds.

Accommodating more rooms

Tourist arrivals rose to 6.2 million in 2018 with earnings of up to $4.35 billion. The figure is expected to grow 20 percent to 30 percent year-on-year. The sector contributes 12.7 percent to the country’s gross domestic product.

This year, a marginal increase is expected on tourist arrivals at 6.7 million. It could rise to seven million in 2020, and 15 million by 2030, according to Tourism Ministry data.

The ministry also predicts that Cambodia would require an additional 100,000 hotel rooms in the next decade to meet the demand of growing tourist numbers. Currently, the country has more than 800 hotels, housing some 46,000 rooms. Of that, at least 20,000 are in five-star hotels. From 2014 till 2016, there was robust growth in the number of hotel rooms but it slowed down in 2017.

“In high season, there are not enough hotel rooms to accommodate the traffic but we feel with more hotels being built, we should be able to accommodate tourist arrivals in the near future,” says Vandy.

Creating an identity, unique products

The Tourism Ministry aims to define certain products and tourism destinations at each province to create a unique package, according to CHuk Chumnor, a spokesperson with Tourism Ministry.

Chumnor, tells Capital Cambodia that the ministry wants to give products and destination an identity in order to attract tourists. He cites the example of Kampot province which produces salt and pepper and is home to the Bokor national park. As such, he adds, other provinces should create similar identities.

“For agri-tourism products, we have durian, cashew, rubber and pepper. Tourism departments in provinces, and local authorities should work together to define respective products. They have to find their own uniqueness to attract the tourists,” Chumnor says.

Currently, the ministry, provincial authorities and tourism departments have jointly set-up tourism master plans for each province. Masterplans are being drawn up for Siem Reap, Kep and Mondulkiri.

During a meeting with Kampot authorities early May, Tourism Minister Thong Khon asked vendors in the province to display more locally-made products. As the province is set to host the Sea Festival this year, an event which attracts a substantial number of local and foreigntourists, its local produce would help promote the ‘Made-in-Cambodia’ brand.

“We have to come together to transform Kampot into a model province when it comes to the quality of products and services, as well as a province where counterfeit products have no place,” Khon says.

“We will prepare an exhibition of high-quality local products which, if possible, will include clothes produced locally that will be sold to local and international tourists during the Sea Festival,” he says.

Soy Sinol, director of Kampot’s tourism department, says that Kampot is also famous for salt flower, coconut and durian.

“If we have our unique products for the province, it will definitely bring in tourists,” Sinol adds. On the overlap of products with other provinces, he says an expert should look into it.

Echoing Sinol, Vandy says Cambodia’s OVOP—One Village, One Product was a good idea but it needs more work.“What we want to see is that each province should display their unique products frequently or every month so that it can be rotated between province. This allows provinces to promote their own products,” Vandy adds.

“If they can identify their identity products such as fruit, flower, and clothes, cake, and handicrafts, they should display it,” he says. He adds that all tourists will think of the uniqueness products or place for each place and province they visited.

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