Sale of handicraft products was in a slow pace in 2015 due to the low of purchasing power among tourists and local buyers prompting to a closure cease production and turnover for few suppliers.


Tourist buyer
Foreign buyer is shopping handmade products at a Christmas exhibition in Dec, 2014.

Price of showrooms renting in hubbub tourist spot in Phnom Penh has been increased since early 2015 forcing a few suppliers to relocate and some suspended production but still accept small order from their oversea buyers.

The sales of many handicraft suppliers have experienced a relative fluctuation throughout the years in which most of them have been struggling to survive for the coming years.

Artisans’ Association of Cambodia (AAC), the only association having 48 suppliers as its member is working hard to help promote Khmer traditional handicrafts by providing trainings and exhibition.

The 7th four-day handicraft fair organized by AAC held in Siem Reap in mid-January this year is also one of its objectives in order to help promote Khmer products through networking and showcasing new products to international buyers and the local buyers.

showroom at WAC
Products are on display in the showroom at Watthan Artisans Cambodia, Phnom Penh

“More than 70 associations, enterprises and handcraft producers participated the fair. Most of them hope that they will get more buyers through this participation,” said Men Sinoeun, Executive Director of Artisans’ Association of Cambodia.

Sinoeun said sales of local handicraft products are capped a bit low in 2015 if comparing to previous years. Through his observation, this could be emanated from the decrease of purchasing power among tourists. And that he suggests the producers to pay more attention on product designs and quality so as to attract more buyers.

Nhok Nimul, General Manager at Rajana Association shared similar concern that her sale revenue mostly depends on local foreigners who are tourists or NGOs staff. And the big chunk of sales is by exporting. She notices that not like before most of tourists are reluctant to buy souvenirs and they are not interested in the phrase “fair trade” or “handmade by the disabled people”.

“If our current oversea buyers ceased the order, it would affect our sale revenue. And we will grapple with our own on the operation cost,” added Nimul, “Most of our clients are from USA, Canada, Australia and Germany.”

“It is sure that sale revenue of all suppliers in the country is relying on foreign buyers, but this is not the concern for us because we have quality products and qualified producers. And our new strategic plan for 2016 and that is to bring out more designs,” said Yek Hong Tang, owner of Peace Handicrafts, a supplier specializing in premium fishing net, eco-friendly and fine silk products and having many loyal buyers from Germany, Switzerland, USA, Singapore, Japan and Australia.

“The design speaks itself,” added Yek, “What concerns us most is the lack of disadvantaged producers whom we still in dire need for more. We are always providing them free yet meticulous training as well as allowance so that they will become the qualified producers for us.”

MOT statistic
Chart on statistic number of tourist arrival in Cambodia from the Ministry of Tourism.

In spite of the low purchasing power, Watthan Artisans Cambodia has seen an uptick in sales of 5% increase with the total of $150,000 as revenue from local retails (75%) and exporting (25%) in 2015, according to Try Suphearac, Sales and General Manager at WAC.

It also noted that international tourist arrivals in the country have slightly increased from 4 million to 4.2 million for the same period of 11 months in 2014 and 2015 respectively, according to Tourism Statistics report 2015 from the Ministry of Tourism.

The top five market arrivals are from China (24%), Thailand (19.7%), UK (16.1%), USA (13.6%) and Vietnam (7.5%).

About the author – Sophal Bun 

Sophal Bun

Sophal Bun is an Export Consultant for Export Assistance Program Cambodia. He received a full scholarship and graduated a Master degree of International Journalism Studies from Hong Kong Baptist University in 2014. He also earned another MA degree in Development Studies from Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2012.