Tour Boat Operators Get Organized, Up Prices

As part of a new, unified commercial body, Phnom Penh tour boat operators plying the Tonle Sap river have substantially raised their prices.

On Jan 17, the Phnom Penh Tourist Water Transport Association, which was formed in September, has required all tour boats to land near Daun Penh district’s Street 94, according to association director Ly Puthy. In the past, they had landed further south, opposite the busiest riverfront hotels and restaurants.

“We created this association for fair sharing among the boat owners,” Mr Puthy said. “We want our guests to travel with safety while on the boats. that’s why we formed this association. We want to keep the boats working in a good order.”

From the new ticket prices, which range between $23 to $43 depending on group size, the association takes $3 per boat to pay for administration costs, according to a price list posted on the riverside.

According to boat owners interviewed yesterday, the new prices more than double previous prices, which they said varied from $10 to $30 per ride. Additionally boat owners have been organized into daily shifts to share tourists and revenue equally between them–leading some boat owners to worry about their business.

“Since I became a member of this association a week ago, my boat can only get customers two or three times a week,” said Nath Tha, 43, owner of a midsize boat holding up to 24 people.

“Before entering the association I could earn at least $40 a week, but now I find it very difficult to make money,” said Ms Tha, claiming a 70 percent drop in revenue.

According to boat owners, the new regime allows a boat to dock two days a week. Those with more than one boat can dock each boat two days per week.

“My boat cannot go out to get customers like before due to this shift,” Ms Tha added. “I support the establishment of this association but I don’t agree with the shift setup. I want it removed.”

Some boat owners worry that this increase in price will affect tourism. The single entrance point to the new dock is manned by association members who prevent tourists from haggling prices individually or using a boat of their choice.

“The price set by the association is higher than before, forcing tourists not to rent the boat for entertainment,” said boat owner Nos Ibrahim, 63. “I heard foreign tourists complaining about the new price, saying in the future there will be fewer foreign tourists renting the boats.”

Mr Puthy denied this claim, saying the previous price was too cheap and left boat owners unable to provide for themselves.

“We will not lose tourists,” he said admitting that more signs would be needed to direct them to the new location. “Yesterday, our boats were very busy leaving, some guests to stay outside the boats.”


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