THE head of a newly formed boat tourism association has rejected the concerns of boat owners who say a new booking system has cut off direct access to customers and levied unnecessarily high fees.
During a meeting between boat owners and officials from the Ministry of Tourism and Phnom Penh Autonomous Port on Tuesday, Ly Puthy, president of the Association of Phnom Penh Water Tourist Transport, said the new body had streamlined bookings and brought order to the boat tourism trade.
“Sometimes, customers walk in, and the boat owner says they have booked [his boat] by phone when in fact they did not,” Ly Puthy said.
He added that a situation in which boat owners operate independently along Sisowath Quay could lead to heated competition.
“We want to make order for them,” he added.
The association was formed late last year and began operating on January 18.
Previously, customers could book tours through individual boat owners, but now they must contact owners through the association.
However, Hei Bavy, director general for Phnom Penh Autonomous Port, argued that a free market should prevail for boat services.
“We should follow the favour of the customers. If they want to book through calling [owners], we should follow them, and if they walk in, we can put them through each of the boats in turn,” he said. “It is a free market. We should adapt to the situation.”
Tuesday’s two-hour meeting also addressed the issue of licencing the tourism boats as a means of ensuring the safety of foreign visitors.
“Boats must have tourism licences and number plates to operate for the safety of tourists,” said Chum Iek, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism.
He said the authorities would give the Association of Phnom Penh Water Tourist Transport one month to register all of its boats with the ministry.