The arrival of the first luxury cruise ship in Cambodia in 30 years bodes well for the growth of more lucrative tourism in the country, officials said this week.
The 200-meter cruiser docked at Sihanoukville this month carrying more than 200 tourists, most of them from the US, said Tui Rutten, managing director of First Travel Cambodia, the Thai operator that organized the tour.
The tourists split into three groups, some visiting Phnom Penh, others Siem Reap, and others the beaches of Sihanoukville, before rejoining the ship in Bangkok, Tui Rutten said.
Transportation, tickets and visas for the 24-hour stopover cost each tourist about $300, said Sok Chamroeun, First Travel’s operations manager. The tour also included stops in the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.
Ma Sun Huot, deputy director of the port, said he welcomed the arrival of both the cruise ships and the big-spending tourists who travel on them.
He added that he hoped the development would help boost the port’s income. Tour First paid a fee of more than $10,000 to dock at the port, he said.
“The port hopes to make money better,” he said.
But Tui Rutten said the port also needs to improve facilities.
First Travel hopes to run more cruises to Cambodia in the future, but not without assurances that the country will do what it can to attract tourists, she said.
“The Cambodian government should develop Sihanouk port faster, improve air and road transport, build an entertainment resort for tourists and generally improve services,” she said.
She also suggested the government issue visas in advance to big groups in order to cut delays at immigration when ships arrive.
The government will work to fulfill those requests and look for ways to make customs and immigration easier for people arriving by ship, said Pak Sokhom, director of marketing and promotion at the Ministry of Tourism.
The port plans to double its capacity in the next few years, Ma Sun Huot said, accommodating up to four cruise ships at a time.