Eighty percent fewer foreign tourists arrived in Sihanoukville by cruise ship this year than last year, officials said Thursday.
Cambodian Association of Travel Agents President Ho Vandy said that just 2,000 tourists have landed by cruise ship at Sihanoukville so far this year, down from 10,000 in 2006.
Ho Vandy said that he was still trying to pinpoint the reason for the precipitous decline in visitors, but suspected that bureaucratic red tape regarding entry visas had something to do with it.
He said docking fees at Sihanoukville should be decreased, and visa procedures should be streamlined, as they have been in neighboring Vietnam.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon blamed the decline on poor infrastructure. He said once Sihanoukville’s Kang Keng airport is improved—the runway is to be expanded next year—tourists will come. Thong Khon also said that he expects more arrivals by ship next year. Already, a 2,000-passenger ship is expected to dock at Sihanoukville in March 2008, he said.
Khek Norinda, spokesman for Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports, the French company that operates the airports in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, said airport services will only improve after hotel capacity on the Cambodian coast improves.
“When I contact airline companies to fly to Sihanoukville, they say it’s difficult because the route is not profitable,” he said.
He said SCA plans to lengthen the runway at Kang Keng to 2,500 meters by 2009 and add a new 4,000-meter runway that same year.
Kov Sayching, the manager of Angkor TK Travel & Tours, said Sihanoukville alone can’t attract tourists.
“Our travelers are VIP tourists looking to spend holidays at a high-class destination,” he said, adding that Sihanoukville currently has only two suitable hotels, the Sokha Beach Resort and Independence Hotel.