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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid