Tourism officials note that port infrastructure will be developed in Kep, and that more should be done to encourage long stays
The government has already decided to build a tourist port in Kep province.
THE number of foreign visitors to Cambodia by sea rose by 46 percent in the first six months of 2009 compared with the first half of last year, officials said.
Numbers were up to 14,636 said Kong Sophearak, the director of the Ministry of Tourism's statistics department, a rise he ascribed to the ministry's strategy to link coastal and eco-tourism areas with Angkor Wat.
Kong Sophearak said the increase marked the beginning of the country's efforts to improve the number of arrivals by sea, with key infrastructure upgrades planned.
"The government has already decided to build a tourist port in Kep province and other centres in the country in an attempt to woo more tourists by sea," he said. Ministry statistics showed that 15 cruise ships arrived at Preah Sihanouk port via Thailand in the first six months of this year.
Just 23 cruise ships carrying 14,159 tourists docked at the port during the whole year of 2008.
Pok Taing, the deputy head of Kep's provincial tourism department, said Sunday that construction had not started on Kep's port, but that the location has been decided upon.
"We hope that in the near future Kep province will have an attractive tourist port like other countries in the region," he said.
However, Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said the Kingdom needs to do more than just build a tourist port if it wants to lure more visitors.
He said that many tourists arriving by sea spend just one night in the country because of a lack of infrastructure and attractive resorts.
"But if we can improve our infrastructure by adding many resorts, then I think we can get 100,000 visitors coming by sea annually," he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen told the closing ceremony of the Tourism Conference last week that the ministry and the Council for the Development of Cambodia, which approves projects, ought to work with the private sector to implement approved tourism-related investments as rapidly as possible to bring in tourists.