Preah Sihanouk province tallied 125,000 national and international visitors over the weekend of October 15-16, “more than 60,000” of which arrived on the former, according to the provincial administration.

Travel to Preah Sihanouk has witnessed a sizeable boom this month, driven by the long-anticipated $1.9 billion 187.05km Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway’s October 1 soft launch and a general desire to see the progress of infrastructure and construction works in the beach-laden province.

The provincial administration reaffirmed in an October 15 statement that the expressway would remain free-of-charge for commuters until October 31, and also attributed the uptick in national and international travellers to Preah Sihanouk to safety, security, public-order, sanitary and environmental factors.

Adding to the list of reasons for the rise in visitors to the province, Preah Sihanouk provincial Department of Tourism director Taing Sochet Kresna added: the desire to see the new buildings; and pent-up demand among families to swim in the sea after more than two years of Covid-19.

However, while the uptrend in trips by Cambodians and foreign residents has been appreciable, and the same for travellers from neighbouring and regional countries a bit more gradual, the change in number of visitors from more distant destinations has not been very pronounced, he told The Post on October 17.

“We’re very pleased with the increase in the number of tourists visiting Preah Sihanouk, but at the same time, we need to do more to promote the potential of Cambodia’s tourism sector on the international stage, by organising major events, ensuring safety, developing new tourism products, and making sure that services better align with standards, to attract more people to the Kingdom,” he said.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin said the traveller boom seen in Preah Sihanouk over the past two-to-three weeks underlines that the domestic tourism sector has truly revived. She similarly linked the boom to curiosity about the “beautiful” city layout and infrastructure.

“The improvements in Preah Sihanouk’s tourism landscape not only create jobs, and generate income for restaurants, accommodations, transportation services and other stakeholders, but also boost national revenues,” she said.

Sivlin also claimed that the provincial administration’s arrangements for public seating, shopping malls and entertainment venues have improved significantly.

The government has designated Preah Sihanouk as a Model Multi-Purpose Special Economic Zone, and as a “rising star” in Cambodia’s southwest, along with the other three coastal provinces – Koh Kong, Kep and Kampot.