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

    Multimedia US Observes Memorial Day With Wreath-laying, National Concert

    Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora