To promote tourism destinations in his home province of Kampot, Hang Panhaka took it upon himself to create an online social community network and app that introduces new destinations and shares inputs from local business owners.
He believes that the app will provide a convenient service to tourists, both domestic and international.
Hang Panhaka, 29, has always wanted to promote tourism in his province since he was in high school.
“When I was in high school, I rarely left the house. One day, I found a waterfall in the forest and it hit me – there is so much beauty around that needs to be shared with people,” he told The Post.
Since its establishment, Panhaka has been dedicated to promoting tourism. He studied tourism management at Techo Sen Kampot Regional Polytechnic Institute and expects to be able to use his skills to build something that will benefit his province.
He created the Visit Kampot Facebook page in 2018 after noting that there weren’t as many visitors as he thought his province deserved, given its impressive mountain and many natural wonders.
“Even most of our Cambodian visitors don’t know about these hidden gems. They come to visit Kampot but they pass through so many destinations that are worth their time,” he said.
He wanted to fill in the gaps and inform visitors more about these attractions so that more people would take the time to explore the province.
“I realized that a Facebook page could provide information and was a good way to promote our province to our visitors,” he added.
He started posting information but didn’t have access to high-quality, attractive photos. Then he began to think about the advertising images of famous foreign tourist destinations that he had seen.
“I knew I would have to learn how to take good pictures. Once I learned the basics, my skills grew. Now I even make videos,” Panhaka said.
More than 71,000 people now follow the Visit Kampot Facebook page. He has also created an online Facebook community called ‘Visit Kampot’ with 877,000 members and has a Telegram channel called ‘Visit Kampot – tips’ with almost 6,000 subscribers.
“We started producing more content during the Covid-19 crisis. The online community was very important at the time, because people felt so isolated,” he said.
Since its inception, the Visit Kampot team has worked closely with the provincial tourism department, which shares tips, new ideas and encouragement with the team.
“We offered our expertise to the Visit Kampot youth group and in return they helped a lot in promoting the province,” provincial tourism department director Soy Sinol told The Post.
Kampot saw more than 1.6 million tourists in 2019 – a 2.17 percent increase compared to more than 1.4 million visitors in 2018, according to the department. The province has set a target of attracting 2.5 million tourists by the end of this year.
“We now live in the digital age – it is easy to send information quickly to the general public or to target groups such as national and international tourists. It’s fast and efficient,” Sinol said.
Panhaka said the growth of domestic tourism in Kampot meant he was receiving more inquiries. This took him longer to answer and his answers were not always as detailed as he would have liked.
“Personal conversations take a long time. I have to explain to them places that I think they would like, but also ask them questions so that I can find what they are likely to be looking for,” he added.
He began to think of ways that could make it easier for tourists to find information.
“I decided to create a website that would be the main source of information. When they want to know something – they can search the website. Then, if they have further questions, I or someone from 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 simpler.
He explained that the app provided information on places to visit, accommodation, local restaurants and cafes, shopping and even gyms and salons. It also offered video guides and weather tips.
“Using technology to plan trips is a smart way to do it. It means we save time and money and can easily access the specific information we need,” he said.
“Youth are important to the development of society, so I want to be a role model for them and let them know that they can achieve anything they put their minds to. Too many young people think they need help from abroad or that they should study in Phnom Penh. My team is almost all from here in Kampot,” he added.
“Our community sometimes values external social media platforms over local ones. Obviously, I believe that local people play a very important role in providing tourist information. Together, we attract more tourists to Kampot and help restore the tourism sector,” he concluded.
His team 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 second year of university. When they have holidays, they help us. When they go back to their studies, a new volunteer comes,” Panhaka said.
Their work has received great support from business owners, who have offered praise, encouragement and financial support to the team.
A user of the web application, Hong Ponleu, said that the content produced by the Visit Kampot youth group contained clear information and had an attractive design.
“Their photos and information are very well organized and the accommodation and other services are detailed and very clearly priced,” he said.
“We intend to produce more guides – in foreign languages. This is our next goal.”