Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (PAS) is set to receive two international-cruise-ship calls this month, representing total estimated passenger capacity of 1,000, the tourism ministry reported, as industry insiders welcome the return of these great behemoths after a two-year Covid-19 hiatus.

The Ministry of Tourism revealed this in a letter addressed to Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun, which revealed that the Bahamian-flagged Seabourn Encore would dock at the port on January 14 and 28, following its well-received arrival in December 29.

Speaking to The Post on January 4, Angkor TK Travel and Tours representative Y Samnoeun claimed that “all the tourists will be from Europe”, some of whom “will be flying to Siem Reap and staying for two or three days, then flying out to [one of the cruise’s] subsequent destinations”.

Samnoeun commented that the news comes amid substantial improvements in the Covid-19 crisis, which he stressed has plagued the tourism industry for more than two years.

Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam were among the first countries to allow for the resumption of socio-economic activity, creating “a lot of opportunities for the arrival of international tourists”, he said.

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter chairman Thourn Sinan sees the arrival of European tourists on cruise ships as a boon for the tourism

sector, remarking that the majority of visitors to Cambodia come from the region, Thailand and Vietnam in particular.

“Although European tourists solely enter via ships, it does reflect their confidence in our country, in that they can travel safely without getting infected with Covid-19. The arrival of the European visitors certainly augurs well for the return of tourists from distant regions,” he said.

Cambodia adopted a “Living with Covid” stance in early November 2021 and moved to allow for a full socio-economic recovery, in the context of the “new normal” in which public health principles are applied.

Cambodia welcomed more than 1.914 million international visitors in the first 11 months of 2022, up nearly 12-fold year-on-year, but still down 67.55 per cent compared to the 5.898 million booked for the same period of record-breaking 2019, according to the tourism ministry.

In 2021, the ministry recorded 196,495 international visitors representing $184 million in tourism receipts, down by 85 per cent and 92 per cent over 2020, respectively.