CHARTER TOURIST OVERLOAD
Manabout is obsessed with an ongoing battle of the buses: for weeks Siem Reap has been cursed with an invasion of these large vehicles. Manabout’s home in Street Number 6, which runs along Central Market, is no sanctuary because in the evening the strip has become a parking lot for buses.
Each evening these rumbling elephantine buses prowl the street looking for a place to roost and at times they clog the street, parking on either side of the narrow road. Occasionally, unable to find a place to park, buses simply stop in the middle of the street to disgorge pilgrims, often blocking traffic for up to twenty minutes.
Various parking lots around town are filled with the bloody things, often blocking cars already parked there. One bus driver explained that he didn’t want to park on the side of the road but had to park directly in front of the shop because the tourists didn’t like to walk the few extra meters.
At times, the dreaded buses even descend on Angkor Market, disgorging a mini-horde of tourists who then clog the little shopping centre.
Many of the large buses carry only a few passengers, but it’s important to transport them to the right store or restaurant because commission is involved.
The drivers cop a cut of whatever the tourist spend in the stores and hence it’s vital that the buses stop right outside the right outlet: let the tourists roam free and they may blunder into the wrong store where there is no commission deal. But the buses themselves are a symptom of a big change in this year’s tourist intake – there’s been a huge upswing in the number of charter tourists coming to town, particularly Chinese and Koreans. They arrive in big numbers and like to travel en masse, hence the buses.
The many experts who claim that Siem Reap has too many hotels have certainly been proven wrong this year because, with the upsurge in the charter trade, it’s been clear that there are not enough hotel rooms.
One charter tour company, for example, was enquiring about the availability of 800 rooms and some companies have diverted large charter bookings to locations such as Poipet and areas where there are casinos with lots of rooms.
But what frustrates hoteliers is that the full bookings only last for two or three months, and then for the rest of the year many hotels sit virtually empty.The profitability and viability of the charter tour trade is also being questioned, not to mention the damage that’s being done to the temples.
Many operators feel there needs to be a switch in tourism marketing to attract more high end tourists, and to spread the tourist season over the remainder of the year. Good luck.
KOREAN TV TEMPLE DRAMA
Popular South Korean espionage drama Iris 2: New Generation began airing on February 13, for 20 episodes. The series contains footage of a chase filmed at Angkor Wat and, according to the producers, this was the first time anything has been filmed at the temples since the Hollywood blockbuster, Tomb Raider.
The entire cast and crew stayed at Le Meridien during the filming from December15-20, and the series will include a few scenes filmed at the hotel.
Some of the popular actors that stayed at the hotel were Jang Hyuk, Lee Da Hae, Lee Beom Soo, Yoon Do Joon, Im Soo Hyang, Lee Joon and the director, Pyo Min Soo.
TONLESAP AIRLINES WOES
More strife for Phnom Penh-based TonleSap Airlines: China Post reported that last Saturday the airline, which started up in January 2011, had several long delays with its scheduled flight to Siem Reap from Taiwan due to an “engine failure.”
This, according to the China Post, further enraged 167 “already angry” passengers.
China Post reported that, “The airline's spotty track record saw it make a last-minute cancellation of a Kaohsiung-Siem Reap flight January 16 after rescheduling several times that day alone.”