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Cruise tourists on rise, but benefits are scant

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Sihanoukville Autonomous Port in the first four months of this year received 30 international tourism cruises, up 57.89 per cent compared with the same period last year, bringing 29,111 international tourists, up 78.25 per cent. Photo supplied

Cruise tourists on rise, but benefits are scant

While international tourist arrivals by cruise ship have increased every year at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (SAP), Cambodia does not appear to be benefitting much from such visitors, the Ministry of Tourism has said.

Speaking at a meeting on “Coordination of Travel, Tourist and Traveller Transport in Border Areas and International Border Checkpoints” on Wednesday, under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism Hor Sarun said tourists to Cambodia on cruises do not have the opportunity to travel far from the port due to inadequate aviation infrastructure.

“Most tourists want to visit some of the islands or take a plane to visit the temples of Angkor Wat, returning in the evening to board their cruises in time to depart. But it’s difficult because tourist ships don’t have specific arrival times and flights are irregular.”

SAP director-general Lou Kim Chhun said at the meeting that the number of cruise ships docking at Sihanoukville port has increased gradually from year to year.

According to Kim Chhun, in the first four months of this year SAP received 30 international tourism cruises, up 57.89 per cent compared with the same period last year, bringing 29,111 international tourists, an increase of 78.25 per cent.

Last year the port received 37 ships, up 23.33 per cent on 2017’s 30. The 37 ships brought 40,598 international tourists, a rise of 58.97 per cent, he said.

Kim Chhun said cruise ships docked at the port for around 15 hours on average.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said the issues required the participation of stakeholders and the private sector. He called on relevant parties to hold an emergency meeting with all stakeholders to work together in resolving the issues.

“This is not only a chance for Cambodia to capture large groups of international tourists, but also an opportunity to host the Asean Summit in 2022,” he said.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin expressed her hope that the Kingdom would be able to attract cruise ship passengers to other tourist attractions, especially Angkor Wat.

“Cruise tourists are considered to be rich and have lots of free time, so if we can make it easier for them, Cambodia will be able to enjoy a lot of benefits from them,” she said.

International tourists to the Kingdom numbered 6.2 million last year, up 11 per cent from 2017, with Chinese tourists topping the list for the second consecutive year.

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