Responsible Motorcycle Tourism in Cambodia

Motorcycle Riders - Responsible and Sustainable Travellers

All around the world, motorcycle riders, fans, mechanics, creators, vendors, riding clubs, and 2-wheel enthusiasts have been coming together since the invention of the versatile motorbike. Small neighborhood get-togethers or massive, multi-day, music-festival-style events — motorbike lovers, collectors, and spectators are always itching to celebrate their mutual passion, unique comradery (something that can only be felt by those who ride), and, of course, to show-off their pride and joy. These bike-meets can be afternoon, single-day, whole weekend, or entire week long festivities where riders feel at home with people who appreciate their style. The whole point is to engage with like-minded individuals, often drooling over custom builds and new riding gear, while hoping to become inspired by each others’ adventurous stories about the open road.

What exactly is a “bike meet” anyhow?

More commonly known as a “bike week” due to the fact that they’ve grown to span the course of several days, these famous events have Southeast Asian homes in Thailand, Malaysia, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Not only do they draw a local crowd, but these motorbike festivals excite international enthusiasts as well, proving to be a huge boost for tourism industries wherever they pop-up.

This meet-greet-ogle subculture had not yet taken a firm hold in Cambodia until 2017, when Siem Reap Bike Meet (SRBM) first began as a simple and humble gathering of friends at a guesthouse — simply because they loved motorcycles, needed a great excuse to meet-up, and craved a sense of community and commonality. The event proved to be bigger and more successful than the organizers ever imagined, culminating in the creation of a second, larger even in 2018 and now a third in 2019 that is shaping up to be the biggest, most successful bike meet in Cambodian history.

Why are motorcycle riders important for tourism?

Motorcycle travellers from around the world tend to flock towards destinations that have established motorbike communities with resources in place to assist their planning, have hotels and guesthouses with ample and safe parking for their bikes, and can cater to their unique sense of adventure when it comes to tourist activities in the area. They often bring a load of cash, since their chosen mode of transport enables them to go farther without the expense of airfare. They most definitely stay longer, eat at restaurants for every meal, and participate in more activities at destination spots than the average tourist, simply due to the fact that their itinerary is so flexible.

They can come and go as they please — especially those who can cross international borders and enjoy long distance riding. This leaves ample room for the tourism industry to latch-on, up-sell, cater to, and connect with motorbike adventure riders — and once a rider is made to feel comfortable in any given neighborhood, city, province, or region, they tend to stay longer than 5-7 days, which is the current lengths of stay for most tourists who fly into Cambodia.

How can motorcycle travellers boost tourism in Cambodia?

On average, motorcycle tourists spend 10-12 days exploring each nation they visit, effectively spreading their money around the whole country. These are seasoned travellers who honor the people they meet along the way and respect the natural beauty, fauna and flora, that graces their path. This is a different attitude than many tourists who are attracted to Angkor Wat, but may not make themselves aware of local customs before flying into Cambodia. They might stay within the bubble of their tour guide and not venture out, or they may simply be aiming to spend as little as possible (the budget-backpacker model). Motorcyclists are a stark contrast to the typical tourist attitude, often visiting the more remote, non-typical destinations throughout Cambodia, riding border to border, sharing their wealth openly and thus creating a responsible and sustainable tourism model that deserves to be studied.

It’s time that the international tourism hubs expand their usual modes of attracting visitors to include motorcycle travellers. Without a doubt, this is a nearly untapped resource that could prove to build-up the industry in surprising ways. Sure, they may not load up on souvenirs, but the services they seek while riding through a region is what beckons tourism boards to stand up and take notice. It’s highly worth it to focus marketing campaigns on motorcycle tourists as a new stream of revenue that has yet to be formally targeted.

When is the Siem Reap Bike Meet for 2019?

This year, the 3rd annual bike meet and music festival on 23 November from 11am-11pm will be held at the iconic Box Ville, a container market located along the busiest thoroughfare in Siem Reap — National Road 6. This place can’t be missed, with a new ferris wheel promising views of Angkor Wat aptly named Angkor Eye, being erected by a Japanese contracting company who saw an opportunity in Siem Reap’s tourism industry.

Siem Reap Bike Meet is organized by a non-profit group of enthusiastic and passionate motorcycle riders who have lived in and around Siem Reap for more than a decade. Their vision of improving road safety and promoting proper motorcycle riding in Cambodia is evidenced in the event’s slogan “Ride Safe. Ride Smart.” The event will hold a raffle to raise money for charities that donate helmets to children in order to improve road safety for youth in the community.

Here are the highlights for Siem Reap Bike Meet 2019:

  • Live Music — 5 Local Bands
  • Live Skateboarding Show
  • Charity Shave-a-thon
  • Raffle Drawings for Charity Throughout the Event
  • Motorcycle Competition with Prizes
  • Motorbike Gear Vendors and Marketplace
  • Kids Mega-Playground, Ice Cream Giveaways, and Activities
  • Delicious Food and Drinks Available from 11am-9pm

The event is completely free to attend (and always will be!) and expects to receive attendance from the local Siem Reap community and their families, both Khmer and expat, as well as confirmed international motorcycle travellers who will stay at hotels and guesthouses before and after the weekend. Local businesses will benefit from an influx of riders travelling across borders and from neighboring cities such as Battambang and Phnom Penh.

Following the big event will be Recovery Rides on 24 November, which are social group rides where attendees will meet up and ride together to a location within 100km of the bike meet. There will be rides for three different classes of motorbikes — small bikes and scooters, big motorcycles, and dirt bikes — each with their own speeds and needs when riding as a group. Riders will get the opportunity to build lasting relationships and learn from each other as they work together to ride safe and ride smart.