Tonle Sap River Boats Ride Wave of New Year

The annual New Year’s Eve ritual of seeing the night sky lit up by fireworks from a boat is growing more popular in Phnom Penh, where tour companies say they saw a sharp rise in the number of local revelers sailing the Tonle Sap on Wednesday night.

Bun Sreypov, owner of Chaktomuk Boat and Tour, said that over the last three years the number of Cambodians boarding his boats to see in the New Year has exceeded the number of foreigners, with private companies often footing the bill as an end-of-year treat for their staff.

A row of riverboats is docked along the banks of the Tonle Sap river Thursday afternoon. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily )
A row of riverboats is docked along the banks of the Tonle Sap river Thursday afternoon. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily )

“The number of Khmer guests has increased because organizations with foreign bosses prefer to throw parties for their staff on boats,” Ms. Sreypov said.

“For example, last night, the French boss of a private health clinic and the Malaysian boss of Titanic restaurant rented my boat…to celebrate New Year’s parties for their staff for six hours at $300,” she said,

Similarly, Sok Sereikunthea, manager of Mekong Flower Tour Boat, said that the majority of her customers on Wednesday night were Cambodian, compared to about 10 percent the previous year.

“This year, I noticed that most of my guests are Cambodian,” Ms. Sereikunthea said, adding that most of them were attending year-end staff parties.

Chhun Ravy, owner of Ravy Boat Tours, said many companies doubled their ticket prices on New Year’s Eve. His own rates to rent out his two boats increased to $60 per hour from the standard rate of $30. His total revenue on Wednesday night was $550, more than five times what he usually takes on a normal day.

“We usually double the prices for renting a boat on New Year’s Eve…because there are so many more bookings,” Mr. Ravy said.

Sar Kinal, managing director of human resources company Aplus Consulting, said staff parties are becoming increasingly common among firms conscious of boosting workplace morale.

“There are now a lot of foreign and Cambodian-owned companies thinking of different ways to motivate their staff and do team-building activities,” Mr. Kinal said.

sothear@cambodiadaily.com, styllis@cambodiadaily.com

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