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 Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill 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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs