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Seaside officials call for action

Tourists swim at a beach along the coast of Preah Sihanouk province in November 2011
Tourists swim at a beach along the coast of Preah Sihanouk province in November 2011. Hong Menea

Seaside officials call for action

Koh Kong and Kampot province tourism departments both registered sharp declines in visitor numbers during the first three months of 2014 compared to the same period last year, prompting a call for improved road and transport infrastructure.

About 28,300 tourists visited Koh Kong province between January and March this year, according to the Koh Kong provincial Department of Tourism. The figure represents an 18 per cent drop compared to Q1 in 2013.

Meanwhile, Kampot Province recorded a 14 per cent decline in tourist arrivals over the past three months, with about 300,000, compared to 350,000 during the same period in 2013.

Chhun Samkhit, vice administrator of the Koh Kong provincial tourism department said the decline was caused by the long distance by road from Phnom Penh and poor road conditions within the province, which connect the seaside to the Cardamom Mountains where most tourists like to visit.

“Koh Kong is much further away by road compared to the other coastal provinces and there are no air or sea travel options for tourists. This is likely to be the main reason that tourists numbers are dropping,” Samkhit said.

Soy Sinol, director of Kampot province tourism department, said the 14 per cent drop in tourism figures was due largely to a decline in Bokor Mountain visitors.

“Last year, a lot of people came here to visit Bokor mountain. This period, it seems they have changed their destination to somewhere else,” he said.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring coastal provinces, Preah Sihanouk and Kep, tourism has continued to see positive numbers of tourists.

Preah Sihanouk tourism officials said tourists over the past three months totaled 445,037, an increase of 26 per cent compared to the same time in 2013.

Seemingly bolstering Samkhit’s argument that limited transport infrastructure and poor road conditions were hampering tourism numbers in Koh Kong, one Preah Sihanouk tourism official who asked not to be named said the province’s continued growth was a direct result of having reliable air, sea and road transport options available to domestic and international travelers.

Som Chenda, director of tourism for the Kep tourism department said tourist arrivals had increased 20 per cent over the past three months primarily due to road works leading to the province.

“The road to Kep province is much better now. Meanwhile, more tourists are becoming aware of Kep as a travel destination,” he said.

He added that maintaining safety for tourists also contributed to the increase, but did not detail how or why safety needed to be improved.

Ang Kim Eang, president of Cambodia of Association of Travel and Agent (CATA) rallied behind Koh Kong tourism official’s concerns, saying the lack of reliable transport infrastructure such as roads is the primary factor for the sharp decline.

Eang called on local officials and the Cambodian government to improve road quality and connectivity in all four coastal areas in order to boost tourist numbers.

Kim Borey, director general of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said road issues are just one factor effecting tourism in Koh Kong province.

“It may also be because there are not many places to visit in Koh Kong. There is a safari and waterfalls, but maybe the weather is too hot.”

He said the Ministry pays attention to improving roads to tourist destinations, however, local government officials are better placed to fix the issue.

“The local department should look at the problem and take care of it. It is within their authority,” he said.

The country’s damaged, time consuming road network is the subject of a new law currently being debated by the National Assembly. The new law says transport officials must regularly check roads for damage and call out dodgy contractors using poor quality materials.

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