The Cambodian government will install five working groups to manage and control the country’s famous coastal province of Preah Sihanouk after it was slammed for having security and environmental issues that were blamed on Chinese visitors.
Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have claimed that the recent influx of Chinese nationals may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city continues to rise.
But Preah Sihanouk provincial tourism department director Taing Sochet Kresna told The Post on Monday that the number of local tourists visiting the coastal province has declined in the centre of town, close to Ochheuteal beach, but that the overall number did not drop.
A report from the provincial tourism department obtained by The Post on Monday shows that the number of domestic tourists remained high.
The report said that Preah Sihanouk had received more than 1.6 million tourists in total in the first nine months of this year – a 6.56 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.
Over 1.1 million of them were locals – a two per cent increase. The number of foreign tourists grew 19.45 per cent to over 414,829.
The Ministry of Tourism last week announced the establishment of five professional working groups.
They include a clean city working group, a tourism industry management group, a clean beach management team, a human resources group to train tourism professionals and a working group to improve the infrastructure of the Provincial Tourism Office, the Coast Office and the Koh Rong Tourism Office.
Insiders say this government’s move is geared towards returning local tourists’ confidence in Preah Sihanouk.
Sochet Kresna said: “The authorities are striving to do a lot of work, such as strengthening implementation of the laws, and building and improving infrastructure systems, so that Preah Sihanouk keeps its potential and will attract more tourists.”
Sihanoukville’s Otres beach, that used to be a popular place for Western tourists, is now becoming a home for locals instead as they try to escape Chinese-dominated areas.
Cambodian Association of Travel Agents adviser Ho Vandy said the working groups are essential to revitalising the tourism industry in Preah Sihanouk to counter its negative perception. He said that authorities at all levels are trying to develop sustainable tourism.
However, Vandy said the plan can only be successful when it is supported by all parties concerned. If not, the tourism sector in Preah Sihanouk province will continue to decline.
A staff at Golden River Bungalow, located close to Otres beach, who asked to remain anonymous said that the number of Cambodians travelling there is increasing.
“If the authorities won’t have more control on Chinese tourists, a lot of European and Khmer tourists will no longer want to visit Preah Sihanouk,” he said.