Sihanoukville is expected to draw in waves of tourists when the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, and provincial authorities pulling out all the stops to make that vision a reality, according to Preah Sihanouk provincial deputy governor Long Dimanche.

The Ministry of Tourism is currently preparing the final draft of the Sihanoukville Tourism Development Plan 2021-2025 with the expectation that it would create a strong magnet for national and international tourists and investors.

Dimanche told The Post at the weekend that the relevant working groups and officials of the Preah Sihanouk provincial Department of Tourism are striving for the success of the five-year plan.

To this end, the provincial authorities are training tourism professionals and new trainers, and spreading the word about tourism in the province through websites, social media platforms, magazines, and mobile apps, he said.

The department is also preparing two more ecotourism sites in the Ream area, and conducting inspections to improve the quality of tourism services, promote a clean city campaign, and ensure adherence to tourism standards and minimum standard operating procedures (SOP) for hotels, guesthouses and restaurants, he added.

“In order to make the management mechanism more effective, the provincial tourism department – under the National Committee for Tourism Development – has set up three tourism associations to facilitate working with the public sector, departments and relevant units,” Dimanche said.

Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan stressed that the province was not just an economic hub and seaport, but also a destination with strong tourism potential.

Major developments such as road infrastructure, large buildings and seaports will provide easier access to entertainment venues and investment projects once the Covid-19 situation is completely under control, he said.

But for now, he said, holidaymakers to Preah Sihanouk are mainly locals.

“I firmly believe that when the world can completely control Covid-19, Sihanoukville will become one of Cambodia’s iconic cities, and it is now developing rapidly,” Sinan said.

According to Dimanche, only two airlines operate international routes to Sihanoukville’s airport. Lanmei and Angkor Air provide “four or five” weekly charter flights, he said.

Ministry data show that the number of foreign tourists visiting Cambodia plunged from 1,306,143 in 2020 to just 196,495 in 2021, which marks a nearly 97.03 per cent drop from the all-time peak of 6,610,592 in 2019.