Tourism expert and officials see the return of large passenger liners as an excellent sign of the recovery of the Kingdom’s tourism industry, especially for Preah Sihanouk province. The recent arrivals have brought thousands of tourists to Sihanoukville.

The latest cruise ship to dock there was the MV Seabourn Encore from the Bahamas, which docked at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port at the weekend, with 429 multinational tourists aboard and 430 crew members.

The Port’s Immigration Police said that the cruise ship – which has a length of 2010m and a beam of 28m – arrived from Thailand and left for Vietnam following its one-day visit to Sihanoukville.

The guests were a mix of nationalities, but the majority aboard were 250 US citizens, 54 Australians and 50 UK tourists.

Preah Sihanouk provincial Department of Tourism director Taing Sochet Kresna said that the tourists onboard visited several attractions, including the beaches of Sihanoukville, markets, pagodas and natural attractions.

“Because these particular tourists were only here for a short time, the benefits to the local tourism industry were not that great. However, this is a good sign for the future of tourism here. That’s why the tourism department is cooperating with the provincial authorities to plan more attractions that will inspire cruise ships to stay longer,” he added.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents adviser Ho Vandy said that the docking of the cruise ship was a positive sign for Cambodia’s tourist sector, especially in Preah Sihanouk province itself. Part of the government’s principles of attracting tourists includes a focus on short-term tourists. Those who may not stay long – like the guests of a passing cruise liner – could soon number in the tens of thousands each year, thank to the sheer size of modern liners.

He suggested that certain tax exemptions or incentives could attract more tourists, giving them a chance to learn more about the rich ancient culture and delicious cuisine of the Kingdom. In addition, he said the government will earn income from the docking of the ships.

“Although we acknowledge that Covid-19 still remains a global concern, Cambodia’s high vaccination rates and subsequent booster campaigns have kick-started the process of receiving foreign tourists. Arrivals seem to be steadily increasing, so we think we will see many more visitors in 2023,” he continued.