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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Potential customers to flood in for Water Festival

People walk past stalls set up during the 2014 Water Festival in Phnom Penh.
People walk past stalls set up during the 2014 Water Festival in Phnom Penh. Vireak Mai

Potential customers to flood in for Water Festival

Business are gearing up for the annual Water Festival, hoping to maximise their advertising exposure with campaigns and events aimed at the 2 million visitors expected to descend on the capital’s riverside area for the three-day event that starts on Sunday.

Mean Chanyada, spokesman for Phnom Penh City Hall, said five locations are being prepared for concerts and entertainment during the Water Festival. The government will organise events at some of these locations, while others will be arranged by the private sector, including Hong Meas, Bayon, Ganzberg and Leo.

“We expect everybody in the country will enjoy the Water Festival, so it is a good opportunity for business vendors to generate income,” he said.

The Water Festival is a traditional event that marks the end of the rainy season and the reversing course of the Tonle Sap river. Festivities were cancelled for three years after a stampede on a bridge packed with revellers in 2010 killed more than 350 people. The festival returned to the capital in 2014, though last year’s celebrations did not include its main event, traditional boat races, which dampened its numbers.

This year will see a full-scale celebration in Phnom Penh, offering businesses a prime opportunity for sales and advertising. However, profits have not always come easy.

Khieu Cany, chairman of PTG International Co Ltd, which provides space for companies to exhibit during the festival, said the event has often fallen short of expectation. He said his company lost money during the 2014 festival, and opted out of the 2015 celebrations after the boat races were cancelled.

“We experienced losses during previous years because of a shortage of visitors and difficulty renting out our booths,” he said. Cany said PTG was ready “to take a chance again” for this year’s event, and has sunk nearly $40,000 into preparations. The company plans to erect between 50 and 100 vendor booths near one of the key entertainment venues in Wat Bottom Park.

“This is our last chance to try this event. If we get a negative result, we’ll give up next year,” Cany said.

Yet so far, the response has been promising.

A total of 50 booths have already been booked, while Cambrew, the producer of Angkor beer, has rented nearly a third of the space for events.

Phoung Kim Vannak, sales and marketing director of Honly Food and Beverage, said the Water Festival was an ideal platform for advertising as millions of visitors circulate through a limited number of venues. If his company can reach even a fraction of these visitors, it would be well worth the effort.

He said Honly will use the festival as a platform to introduce potential customers to its products, which have only been in the local market since 2015.

“The main target in the festival is advertising our new beverage brands, and it’s a good chance for visitors to sample the flavour of our products,” he said.

“After the event, [we hope] they will go to a branch to buy our products.”

Prum Yuthen, event manager for Ganzberg beer, one of the festival’s main organisers, said the company was not looking at the event purely from a sales standpoint.

“Ganzberg is joining this event not only to make profit, but because we want to offer our customers entertainment and let them enjoy drinking fresh German beer that is different from the regular beer.”

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