Ferry operators that ply the choppy crossing between Sihanoukville and the tourist-trodden islands offshore have been ordered to begin paying the provincial government $3 per ticket sold. Companies say the fee will hurt coastal tourism.
In a letter dated Friday, Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Yun Min said local authorities would use the money to conserve and develop the coastline, and thereby “attract more tourists to the beaches and islands.”
Reached by telephone, Mr. Min conceded that the fee could result in companies hiking their prices, but said he did not expect the change to produce a negative effect on tourism.
“I don’t think that $1 or $2 will affect it,” he added, declining to say what penalties would be imposed on companies that refuse to pay.
As of Wednesday, authorities had not started collecting the fee, but when they do, companies would have to raise their prices, said Seng Ly, 26, manager of the Island Cruise company.
“If the price increases, it will affect the tourism sector and the number of tourists will decrease,” he complained, adding that ferry operators had meetings with provincial authorities twice last month, during which they balked at the $3 fee.
Suy Sreymom, owner of the popular Island Speed Ferry, said she would simply add the $3 to the $20 price for a return ticket to Koh Rong or Koh Rong Sanloem.
Like Mr. Ly, she said it would only hurt offshore tourism.
“Many companies haven’t agreed to the amount of money that is supposed to be paid to the authorities because it’s too much,” she said.
Jacob Scott, the manager of Bong’s Guesthouse on Koh Rong, said the impact would depend on how the money is used.
“If they come to clean the beach every day, then I can’t see it as a bad thing. But if that money just goes to waste, that’s what we worry about,” he said.