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Tourists flow to Siem Reap, Sihanoukville over festival weekend

Chinese tourists seen relaxing on a beach in Sihanoukville province.
Chinese tourists seen relaxing on a beach in Sihanoukville province. Sahiba Chawdhary

Tourists flow to Siem Reap, Sihanoukville over festival weekend

The number of tourists visiting Preah Sihanouk and Siem Reap provinces swelled to 360,000 during the three-day Water Festival this past weekend.

In Preah Sihanouk alone, a total of 85,000 tourists visited the province over the long weekend, an increase of 5.9 percent compared to last year’s holiday, according to Taing Socheat Kroesna, director of the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Tourism Department.

The province saw a small 4.8 percent increase in domestic tourist arrivals, with 73,950 Cambodians visiting from other provinces, while foreign tourists had a sharper increase of 14.5 percent, totalling 11,050 visitors.

Kroesna credited the rise in tourism rates to the efforts made by the province to improve its tourism infrastructure, including focusing on quality of customer service and cracking down on crime.

“During the Water Festival, there are a lot of domestic tourists because it is a national holiday, but we are also attracting international tourists as well since we have expanded our tourism facilities,” he said. “We have expanded the beach, encouraged better management of tourist facilities and worked toward greater security for our visitors.”

However, the influx of tourists during the holiday also brought with it the annual hike in prices as accommodation capacity was strained.

“We face the challenge of increased prices at restaurants and hotels,” said Kroesna. “There is a shortage of accommodation, so prices are rising.”

He added that Sihanoukville has plans to expand its tourism industry by making an extra 3,000 beds available by next year.

According to the Siem Reap Provincial Tourism Department, the northern city welcomed over 280,000 tourists during the Water Festival, increasing its total number of visitors by 40 percent compared to last year. The level of foreign tourists remained about the same with a total of 32,000 visitors, a slight increase of 0.35 percent compared to last year. However, the amount of domestic tourists surged by 47 percent, totaling 170,000.

Met Measpheakdey, Phnom Penh Municipal Hall spokesman, could not be reached for comment to provide information about rates of tourism in Phnom Penh during the festival.

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, welcomed the increase in tourists during the holiday but stressed the need for provinces to pay attention to the environmental impact of increased foot traffic.

“The increased growth of tourists is a good sign for the growth of the country, but it is important to keep our cities clean of trash,” she said.

“It is not only the duty of the government, but also the duty of individuals to help keep our city streets clean, as [trash] will have a negative impact on visitors during their travels.”

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