Authorities in Sihanoukville have instituted a $20 standard fare for companies ferrying tourists between the city and the coastal islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem in a bid to thwart chaotic competition for passengers.
In a letter issued on Tuesday, City Hall told companies to raise their round-trip fares from the current prices, which had dipped as low as $10 or $12, from today.
“During the past couple of months, there seem to have been some irregularities in the businesses of tourist boats and companies, causing a bad situation, negativity in the business and chaos in the profession,” the letter said.
The announcement also reminded operators about a September order introducing a $3 fee per ticket, to be paid to the Preah Sihanouk provincial government for coastal preservation and development, and threatened to shut down companies that did not comply.
Provincial governor Yun Min said the $20 fare was ordered after receiving complaints about unfair competition in the industry, which was shaken up when Tea Vichet, son of Navy commander Tea Vinh, launched the GTVC ferry company in October.
Some companies came “to us for help,” Mr. Min said. “The authorities want to control the business to guarantee transparency.”
“We need to clearly set the price in order to avoid…unfair competition,” he added, declining to comment further.
Despite the order, Seng Hour Leang, owner of Koh Rong Dive Center, said his boats would continue to charge $10 a head until all other ferry firms raise their prices.
“If we increase the price, we need to increase it all together,” he said. “I think this price-fixing isn’t going to be successful, because even though [companies] say the price is $20, what if they sell it for only $15? Who inspects it?”
Even GTVC was unsure whether it would comply with the order, or pay the $3 fee to City Hall, unless all the other ferries did so as well, general manager Heng Kimsor said.
“My CEO hasn’t decided if we will increase the price yet,” he said.