Hotels, restaurants and the transport business expect an increase in customers, but the overall impact on the tourism sector of the cremation of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk will be fairly small, according to industry experts.
“I think that for business overall, you won’t see a big difference,” Luu Meng, president of the Cambodia Hotel Association, said.
He said that although more people would come to the capital, especially from the provinces, some people not involved in the event would leave town because shops would be closed and they had time off work, offsetting the increase in visitors.
The cremation falls on February 4, but the official, week-long mourning period begins on February 1.
According to staff on Tuesday, Sofitel’s cheapest single-bed rooms have been snapped up for February 2 to 4. The Intercontinental said it still had rooms available every day.
But according to Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, it is usually difficult during the high season to find hotel rooms in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap until March, and it was too early to say whether there would be an increase in demand because of the King Father’s cremation.
Guests at the Frangipani Royal Palace Hotel and Spa would not be allowed to stand on the balconies of their rooms or open the windows from January 31 to February 4, a hotel staff member said.
According to this employee, the government informed the hotel about two weeks ago but it has not negatively affected the number of bookings, which has increased.
“It’s OK because we respect the King Father, so everybody will know and understand that,” the staff member said.
A hotel guest said he agreed, saying this was the culture of the country and he respected it.
Despite high demand for rooms, room prices would not increase, Ang Kim Eang said.
“The rate is already high, because this is high season. So they won’t increase any more. “
Luu Meng also said no one had increased their prices so far. “It’s up to individual owners to increase prices, [but] we don’t encourage people to talk about price increases,” he said.
“We do, however, encourage people to [improve] the quality of service in the hotel and in the restaurant as well; we try to be more professional.”
Flight bookings into Phnom Penh for early February had increased by 30 per cent compared with the corresponding period last year, Sim Vathanak, sales and marketing director of Abacus Cambodia, which provides the ticket reservation system for travel agents here, said.
“One reason could be the King Father’s cremation. Some people from China travel down because the King Father had a long history with Chinese leaders [and] the Chinese have a lot of respect for him.”
Locals will also be travelling to Phnom Penh in droves.
The bus company Phnom Penh Sorya Transportation expects 20 per cent more Cambodians from the provinces to take its buses to Phnom Penh, a company representative said.
Higher demand is expected from provinces near Phnom Penh because the tickets were cheaper, he said.
But complaints have come from a small number of tourists because attractions in Phnom Penh’s city centresuch as Wat Phnom, the National Museum and the Royal Palace will likely be closed or overcrowded.
Travel company Hanuman has received complaints from about five per cent of its customers.
“They booked their holidays months ahead, so they expected to be able to go to these attractions to fully understand the country’s history,” Kim Hean, a travel agent with the company, said.
“We try to make them understand the situation” and suggest that they visit attractions further away, such as the Killing Fields, he said.
But not everyone will be streaming into the city: some are trickling out, too.
High demand for flight tickets from Phnom Penh to Bangkok on January 30 and 31 have driven prices up to $192 for a one-way ticket with AirAsia.
A ticket after this period costs $150 or less, according to the company’s website on Tuesday.
“It is a long holiday, and people want to go for a trip,” Hay Kakada, team leader of AirAsia’s guest service department said. But those customers were mostly foreigners working here, she said.