Hotels and restaurants are expected to be stretched at this weekend’s Sea Festival in Koh Kong, with authorities expecting up to 50,000 people to attend the annual beachside event this year.
Starting on Friday, the three-day festival is a mixed bag of events that hopes to appeal to all tastes. The coastal celebration aims to draw visitors to Cambodia’s lesser-known beachside tourist areas – Sihanoukville, Kep, Kampot and Koh Kong.
Hosted in Kep and Kampot last year, the event attracted over 30,000 people, according to Tourism Minister Thong Khon, and he expects numbers to increase this weekend with more international interest in the event.
“Around 50,000 visitors are expected to join the Sea Festival this year as Koh Kong has a much bigger beach than Kep,” Khon said. “Among the number, we expect around 10,000 visitors from Thailand to join the festival as the province is very close to Thailand,” he added.
The Sea Festival will showcase local and international food and will include cultural shows from featuring performers from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. The festival also hosts a number of sporting contests including boat races and bike riding.
The annual event has already proven a boon for local hoteliers who have been booked out well in advance.
“Guests started booking a month before the festival. All the 54 rooms in our hotel were booked two weeks ahead of the festival,” said Keo Chhunleng, a reservation officer at Koh Kong City Hotel.
But with numbers expected to swell, the event will also put a strain on an area still developing its tourism accommodation options. Provincial authorities are working on alternatives to house the anticipated sharp rise of visitors.
“There are around 1,700 rooms available in total in the province which will not be enough to accommodate visitors,” Bun Beav, director of Tourism Department in Koh Kong province.
“But we know the issue and have encouraged local people to put their house for rent if available. We have tents for rent and the province’s pagodas will open space to be able to help accommodate the remaining visitors too,”
Hor Vandy, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Working Group on Tourism, was concerned that Koh Kong may not yet be ready to accommodate such a large number of visitors.
“Though I expect a lesser amount of visitors will join the festival this year than last year, the gap between the number of hotels and restaurants and the number of people who will visit is still high,” he said.
Vandy, who said he too was unable to secure any accommodation himself, called on the government to ensure high standards of security and food hygiene were in place at this weekend’s festival.