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Despite its tourism revenue being lower than its neighbors, Cambodia has many sites that can attract tourists. Content creators and the Government are now being encouraged to work together to promote tourism by setting up an agency to create luring storytelling content.
Thay Chheangmeng, Managing Director at Kampucheers, has more than six years of experience in media and commercials. He believes that tourism marketing, such as setting up an agency for storytelling, is important to attract tourists.
He said, “Cooperation between content creators and the Government is essential in promoting tourism by storytelling to raise awareness of the country’s tourism sites; therefore, attracting tourists, especially foreigners.”
Tourism is one of the three main economic pillars in Cambodia, but it generates significantly less revenue than neighboring countries.
In 2018, Cambodia's tourism industry generated $4.83 billion, while Vietnam's amounted to $26.75 billion and Thailand’s hit $58 billion.
This is due to a number of factors, including Cambodia's lack of infrastructure, its poor security record, and its image as a poor country. However, there are a number of reasons to believe that Cambodia's tourism industry has the potential to grow.
The country has a rich history and culture, stunning natural beauty, and welcoming people. As the number of content creators increases, they play an increasingly important role in promoting the economy by sharing stories of Cambodia with the world, and they can help to dispel the negative stereotypes that some people have about the country.
Adopting an agency akin to that of Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam
Chheangmeng said that in the past four years many tourism sites, such as Omal Waterfall, Veal Pouch Waterfall, and Khnong Phsar have been discovered by the public through photos and videos on social media.
An example is the popular hiking trail Khnong Phsar, which was recently discovered and spread across social media, he added. However, when he visited the site, Chheangmeng was surprised to see that there were not many tourists. He believes that sites like these have potential to attract visitors.
Cambodia has the tourism slogan, “Kingdom of Wonder, Feel the Warmth”. To claim this slogan, Chheangmeng believes that a government agency responsible for attracting tourists is necessary.
For example, in Thailand, besides the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, there is another agency that is responsible for increasing the visitor numbers: Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
TAT has an official Instagram account with more than 190,000 followers that produces attractive content, such as photos and videos. Additionally, TAT has an official website, “Amazing Thailand”.
Chheangmeng emphasizes the need for cooperation between content creators and the government to promote Cambodia's tourism. He believes that both parties can play a role in raising awareness of the country's wealth of attractions.
He said, “We, as content creators, are able to produce content that has the potential to promote Cambodia’s tourism. However, an agency akin to that of Thailand is needed to provide funding to content creators, and work with commercial companies.”
When an agency provides funding and other support for content creators, they will be able to regularly produce content, Chheangmeng added. As a result, content creators, commercial companies and the government will benefit from the creation of such an agency.
The role of content creators: producing photos and videos
TAT does not ask for content from other content creators. Instead, it produces content professionally. For instance, TAT’s Instagram account ‘Amazing Thailand’ regularly produces high-quality content that appeals to a wide range of audiences.
That is why TAT’s content receives strong engagement, such as views, likes and followers.
Chheangmeng believes that Cambodia has many tourism and ecotourism sites that can easily attract tourists by hiring content creators to create informative and engaging content.
In addition to producing high-quality content, he said it is important that the agency focuses on tourism and travel experiences because when tourists enjoy their experience visiting a site they tend to return to Cambodia, he said.
This strategy is known as word-of-mouth. This means that when a company provides a customer with favorable experiences, the customers will promote the company by giving good reviews.
To provide a better tourism experience when tourists visit sites, Chheangmeng suggests that Cambodia should diversify its tourism offerings to reduce its reliance on already established sites and temples.
Instead, Cambodia should focus on developing new tourism products and experiences that will appeal to a wider range of visitors, Chheangmeng added. He said, “Content creators should tailor their content to their target audience. For example, content for local tourists would be different from content for international tourists.”
For international tourists, the type of content produced should be reviews, testimonials and storytelling because this is appealing to foreigners, and some like reading in-depth stories. Additionally, Instagram photos and videos are often appealing to foreigners, he added.
In contrast, when producing content for the domestic market, TikTok and Facebook are common because these two social media platforms are the most popular in Cambodia.
“The biggest challenge in running media is content production because we need to distinguish between local and international audiences. For instance, Cambodian people like using TikTok; therefore, we should produce TikTok videos, while for foreigners ,they prefer websites or other types of media,” Chheangmeng said.
Therefore, it is imperative that content is produced in line with the target audience’s specific needs. Chheangmeng said another challenge is the consistency of content produced. For example, the media should produce content regularly not only when there is a big event, such as when Preah Vihear Temple was UNESCO-listed.
Additionally, the content should be up-to-date with the latest tourism trends. “If we fail to keep up with the latest trends, we will not be able to increase engagement,” Chheangmeng said, adding this requires research and data to better understand these trends.
The role of the Government
Chheangmeng said that the Government’s role in the agency would be to act as a guidance by providing funds and bridging the gap between commercial and content creators.
For example, after the agency is created, the Government could work with a commercial company to run a travel content competition about the topic, ‘Siem Reap, Beyond Angkor’. The competition could attract 100 videos but the top five most viewed videos are selected. The money the agency invests in the competition is the equivalent of investing in a TV commercial, he explained.
Furthermore, the Government can support content creators by providing them with training and resources. Chheangmeng told Kiripost that the majority of Cambodian content creators are self-taught.
Therefore, if there are vocational training programs that last between six and 12 months, it would be beneficial for the rise in local content creators because aspiring content creators can gain skills without having to complete a four-year university degree.
The Government can also promote tourism by cooperating with foreign content creators. For instance, according to Best Food Ever Food Review Show’s YouTube channel, which has more than 10 million subscribers, there are about 100 food review videos about Vietnam, while there are only five videos showcasing Cambodia.
Chheangmeng is grateful for Cambodian content creators who are trying to promote tourism by posting attractive photos and videos, even though sometimes they do not produce content themselves. However, he believes that this model is not solid because they do not produce original content, they depend on other people’s.
Therefore, he is calling on content creators and the Government to work closely to create an agency to set up an official tourism advertisement media agency to oversee all content that promotes Cambodia’s tourism.
The top Cambodian tourism content creators on Instagram and social media
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The power of storytelling in tourism marketing
Chheangmeng highlights the importance of storytelling in tourism marketing. He said that tourists are more likely to be interested in a destination if they can learn about its history and culture.
He said that if new tourism products and experiences are promoted, such as homestays, then tourists’ experience will improve. When they have opportunities to listen to the stories of the sites and experience the unique ways of life of local people, they become more engaged in the experience.
Chheangmeng said he experienced a homestay in Salavan, Laos near a waterfall in a village where he immersed himself in local culture by eating local food and experiencing the community’s ways of life. Additionally, he had the opportunity to listen to the local communities’ stories, which had a long-lasting impact on his traveling experience.
Lack of information, such as history and culture, about sites is one of the main reasons why tourists do not visit. He explained, “For me, before I went to Angkor Borei Phnom Dar, I watched a French documentary and I was immersed in the stories told in the documentary.”
“There are so many stories about Cambodia that the world has not been told, so we should start telling stories about tourism sites to attract tourists,” he added. “For instance, Tuol Sleng prison, the story behind this historic place is very painful for not only Cambodians but the whole of humanity.”
He said that when a visitor learns the history of the site and how more than two million people were killed during the Khmer Rouge, it resonates stronger with them. It is the background and stories of people and places that can lure people to visit them.
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