News / Asia

Cambodia Tuk-Tuk Drivers Hit a Bump

Cambodian tuk-tuk drivers in Siem Reap, like Chan and Sambath, are not being helped by the rise in Asian tourists.
Cambodian tuk-tuk drivers in Siem Reap, like Chan and Sambath, are not being helped by the rise in Asian tourists.
Yong Nie

The booming tourism industry in Cambodia, particularly in Siem Reap, has brought prosperity and abundant job opportunities to Cambodians in recent years, thanks to the lure of its 12th century Angkor temples located just outside the town.

The town is the biggest contributor to Cambodia's tourism industry, having seen 2.5 million tourist arrivals in 2010. This, in turn, has significantly boosted the local economy.

The strength of Asian economies is indicated by the influx of tourists from this region, while travelers from Europe have declined. Official statistics from the Cambodian Tourism Ministry has shown that visitors from China and Korea increased 50 percent and 46 percent in 2010, while tourists from the United Kingdom and United States declined three percent and eight percent, respectively.

Siem Reap's old market area has a touch of French influence in its architecture, having been colonized by France in the 17th century. While the facade of the shops have been relatively unchanged, the town is now filled with bars serving $1 beers and quaint cafes serving frozen yogurt and sandwiches to foreign tourists.

The latest additions to the town is the mushrooming number of Chinese and Korean restaurants that specially cater to the rising number of tourists from those countries.

Serving Siem Reap's tourism industry are Cambodians that work in hotels, restaurants and as tuk-tuk drivers that can be found on just about every corner of the town. Tuk-tuks are auto-rickshaws, a popular mode of transportation and easy to maneuver on the town's pot-holed roads.

But the rising number of Asian tourists is not a boon to the tuk-tuk drivers in Siem Reap.

Chan, 24, a tuk-tuk driver said as more Asian tourists and fewer European tourists come to Cambodia, businesses for these drivers are also generally slowing down. “Asian tourists tend to arrive in groups via tours, so they don't need tuk-tuks to get around,” he said.

Several years ago, tuk-tuk drivers are able to command between $12 and $15 from customers for a full-day visit to the Angkor temples. But all that has changed. Chan said he would be lucky to get $8 from a customer nowadays, even though November generally has the most  tourist arrivals as the town welcomes the cool season.

Another tuk-tuk driver, Sambath, said driving was once one of the more desirable jobs in the tourism and services-related industry because the drivers were higher paid compared with those working in hotels and restaurants. But, that is no longer the case.

“On a good month, we get between $100 and $200. Sometimes, we get nothing a month,” he said.

While demand is sinking, costs for tuk-tuk drivers continue. Sambath has recently invested in a new tuk-tuk and motor, that cost him close to $2,000. Drivers are also required to pay the government $5 annually to renew their operating licences.

According to Sambath, living expenses in Siem Reap have risen, especially in the areas of housing and food, making it more difficult for the working class to make ends meet. He said more than a third of drivers' salaries go to room rentals, as most of them come from villages in search of better job opportunities in Siem Reap.

Tuk-tuk drivers are also more vulnerable toward fluctuation in oil prices, given that fuel is a variable cost to them.

Nevertheless, Chan is fortunate to have a small rice field that belongs to his family. “The flood in the past few months have destroyed the rice that my family has planted as well. But, we are starting to plant again and the rice should sell at a better price because there is likely to be a shortage in supply,” he said.

However, Chan said he is adamant about not returning  to his village to become a farmer. “It's too much hard work. At least, as a tuk-tuk driver, if there is no business, I can pull up a hammock by my tuk-tuk and rest,” he said.

Sambath said he was also reluctant to become a migrant worker, as he has heard stories of abuse and cheating by overseas employers from his friends.

“It is still safer to work in your own country. At least you know your surroundings and people here speak the same language as you do,” he said.

Sambath said he is also learning to be smarter about getting customers. He is reachable not just by phone, but also via his Gmail account.

“You have to use all ways to get customers. Money won't fall from the sky just like that,” he said, while hollering at a Western tourist to promote his transportation services.

You May Like

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs