To promote tourist destinations in his home province of Kampot, Hang Panhaka has made it his mission to set up an online community community network and app that will showcase new travel destinations and share introductions from local business owners.
He believes that the application will provide convenient service to tourists from home and abroad.
Hang Panhaka, 29, has wanted to promote tourism in his province since he was in school.
“When I was in high school, I rarely left home. One day I found a waterfall in the woods and it struck me — there is so much beauty everywhere that needs to be shared with people,” he told the Post.
Since its revelation, Panhaka has been dedicated to promoting tourism. He studied Tourism Management at Techo Sen Kampot Regional Polytechnic Institute and hopes to use his skills to build something that will benefit his province.
He created the Visit Kampot Facebook page in 2018 after realizing there were not as many visitors as he thought his province deserved given its spectacular mountain and many natural wonders.
“Even most of our Cambodian visitors are unaware of these hidden gems. They come to visit Kampot but pass by so many destinations worth their time,” he said.
He wanted to fill in the blanks and educate visitors about these attractions so more people would take the time to explore the province.
“I realized that a Facebook page can provide information and is a good way to promote our province to our visitors,” he added.
He began to post information, but did not have access to high-quality, attractive images. It was then that he began to think about the promotional images of famous foreign tourist destinations that he had seen.
“I knew I had to learn how to take good photos. After learning the basics, my skills grew. Now I even make videos,” said Panhaka.
More than 71,000 people now follow Visit Kampot’s Facebook page. He has also created an online community on Facebook called “Visit Kampot” with 877,000 members and has a Telegram channel called “Visit Kampot – Tips” with almost 6,000 subscribers.
“During the Covid-19 crisis, we started producing more content. The online community was very important back then because people felt so isolated,” he said.
Since its inception, the Visit Kampot team has worked closely with the provincial tourism department, who share advice, new ideas and encouragement with the team.
“We have made our expertise available to Visit Kampot’s youth group and in return they have done a lot to promote the province,” Soy Sinol, director of the province’s tourism department, told The Post.
Kampot welcomed more than 1.6 million tourists in 2019 – a 2.17 percent increase compared to more than 1.4 million visitors in 2018, the ministry said. The province has set a target of attracting 2.5 million tourists by the end of this year.
“Today we live in the digital age – it is easy to send information quickly to the general public or target groups such as national and international tourists. It’s fast and efficient,” said Sinol.
Panhaka said the growth in domestic tourism in Kampot means he’s getting more inquiries. As a result, it took him longer to reply and his answers were not always as detailed as he would like.
“Personal conversations take up a lot of time. I have to explain places I think they would like, but I also have to ask them questions so I can figure out what they’re likely to be looking for,” he added.
He started thinking of ways that would make it easier for tourists to find information.
“I decided that I should set up a website, which would be the main source of information. If they want to know something, they can search the website. Then if they have any further questions, I or one of my team will answer them,” he added.
The Visit Kampot web app (www.visitkampot.info) in Khmer has just been launched and can be installed on a mobile device or viewed in a browser. It focuses on simple tips to make planning a trip easier.
He explained that the application provides information on attractions, accommodation, local restaurants and cafes, markets, and even gyms and salons. It also offered video guides and weather tips.
“Using technology to plan trips is a smart way to do that. That means we save time and money and can easily access the specific information we need,” he said.
“Young people are important for the development of society, so I want to be a role model for them and let them know that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. Too many younger people think they need outside help or study in Phnom Penh. My group is almost all from here in Kampot,” he added.
“Our community sometimes values external social media platforms more than local ones. Obviously I think the locals play a very important role in providing tourist information. Together we will attract more tourists to Kampot and help restore the tourism sector,” he concluded.
His group has more than 10 members, all of whom are volunteers under the age of 25.
“Some are in 11th or 12th grade. Others are in their first or sophomore year. When they’re on vacation, they help us out. When they return to their studies, a new volunteer will come,” Panhaka said.
Their work has received much support from business owners who have offered praise, encouragement and financial support to the group.
A user of the web app, Hong Ponleu, said that the content produced by youth group Visit Kampot contained clear information and had an attractive design.
“Their pictures and information are very well organized, and accommodation and other services have details and prices are very clear,” he said.
“We plan to produce more travel guides – in foreign languages. That is our next goal.”