Plans to hold a massive regional tourism conference next year at a yet-unfinished conference center in Chroy Changva have been scrapped, tourism and Phnom Penh officials said Sunday.
The Asean Tourism Forum, scheduled for late January, will have to be held in other Phnom Penh facilities, and the conference center, which was to be called the Mekong Conference Center, will have to be used for other meetings in the future, the officials said.
“We [will] just forget about it,” Ministry of Tourism Secretary of State Thong Khon said Thursday, referring to the center, which was originally meant to hold exhibition booths and meetings for as many as 1,400 regional guests. Meetings and events for the two forums will now be held in different locations around the city, including the Chaktomuk Theater, the National Cultural Center and the Inter-Continental Hotel, Thong Khon said.
Phnom Penh City Hall and the Ministry of Tourism announced in April 2001 that they would cooperate on the building of the proposed $6 million conference center. Families were moved from Chroy Changva, and river-dredging operations began.
“I think there was not enough time to finish [the center],” Thong Khon said.
Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said the events would be moved. Construction, however, is progressing in Chroy Changva, and the city is continuing work on the Mekong Conference Center, as well as improving the road, the electric infrastructure and the land around the center, said Mann Chhoeun, director of Cabinet for the municipality.
“The municipality is still constructing the center, but not for the [tourism] conference,” Mann Chhoeun said.
The city—which provided land to the Ministry of Tourism for the conference hall—will focus now on security for the tourism forum, which will come shortly after an Asean Summit scheduled for November, Chea Sophara said.
Around 8,000 police and military police will be tasked for security, and municipal authorities will ask Phnom Penh residents to be vigilant and report wrong-doing, Chea Sophara said. He would not say whether the Chroy Changva conference center planners had run out of time or whether they had run out of money.
So far, little preliminary construction at Chroy Changva has taken place. The peninsula is now the host to many different food vendors. During last November’s Water Festival, the city ran an inexpensive shuttle from the west bank of the Tonle Sap river to the peninsula, but little more has been developed.
The Asean Tourism Forum is hosted by a different member nation each year as a way to promote tourism venues for international visitors. Senior ministers, heads of tourism associations and journalists are all expected to arrive in January for the conference, Thong Khon said.
The Ministry of Tourism plans to rent out about 300 booths at the National Cultural Center near Hun Sen Park for different “buyers and sellers” in the tourism sector.