With Sihanoukville having hosted the East Asia Seas Congress 2021, director of the Preah Sihanouk tourism department Taing Sochet Krisna said the coastal city is primed to give visitors the best of experiences.
Held under the theme “Charting a New Decade of HOPE (Healthy Oceans, People and Economies)”, the forum focused on the sustainable development of the world’s seas.
Preah Sihanouk was a fitting setting for the summit, the province having joined the France-based Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club in 2011.
Sihanoukville is also to host the Southeast Asian Sailing Championship from December 12-17 and the ASEAN Tourism Forum from January 16-22.
And while such events serve to showcase Sihanoukville’s impressive recent development, Krisna says there is even more to come, with MICE – meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions – tourism a major focus for the city going forward.
“We cannot just rely on the hotels and casinos, so we at the Tourism Department are committed to turning Sihanoukville into a premium MICE tourism destination to host major international trade forums.
“While we currently have more than 10 five-star hotels, this is not enough to cater for the MICE tourism sector.
“This is why the government and Ministry of Tourism is actively inviting investors – particularly European and American hotel brands – for needed business and conference centres and further five-star hotels that focus on the MICE tourism to boost the sector,” Krisna said.
There also calls for investors to introduce more marine recreation and tourism activities to capitalise on the province’s pristine islands, crystal clear waters and rich sea life, and encourage greater numbers of repeat visitors, while agritourism is another area for further investment.
The Preah Sihanouk municipality has said that as of June last year, there were 194 projects in the province valued at $30 billion, with an additional $10 billion recorded for tourism and hotel ventures.
Krisna says that such redevelopment has resulted in a city boasting the highest standards across the board.
“With the recent redevelopment, we have endeavoured to make Sihanoukville the best of destinations. We have called on investors to invest more in the highest standard resorts, hotels and amenities.
“We have raised the standards in the city across all areas, including the standards of hotels and all other facilities, and have conducted clean city initiatives, carried out safe city campaigns, and upped efforts in street cleaning, sanitation and law enforcement, among other areas.
“We have also increased the number of parking spaces and information booths, and focused heavily on the cleanliness of the beach, sanitation and tourist safety – through the implementation of the ‘Clean City, Clean Resort, Good Service, Good Hospitality’ campaign – to improve the visitor experience. We have also worked closely with the private sector to ensure all the amenities on offer – such as the new restaurants lining the beachfront – are of the highest standard.
“All this means that visitors, whether local or international, can be sure of having the best of experiences in Sihanoukville,” he said.
For the three-day Water Festival, the province received 110,000 visitors, including some 5,000 local foreigners – equivalent to around five per cent – so despite being hit hard by the pandemic, Krisna is predicting a robust and rapid rebound.
“While Sihanoukville – like all centres of tourism – was hit hard by Covid-19, we have already been seeing monthly growth and are predicting 90 per cent of the businesses that were forced to close will have returned by the beginning of 2022.
“The government and local authorities have brought in strict SOPs [standard operating procedures] to control Covid and ensure people’s safety, which means that as people return to Sihanoukville, they can do so with peace of mind,” he said.
The province expects to receive about one million national tourists, with international tourism to return soon and continue to grow rapidly.
“Domestic tourism is increasing very quickly, with monthly growth, while I expect that with the sound policy of not forcing vaccinated visitors to quarantine for 14 days, international tourists will start returning at the end of this year.
“And while there will be a slight increase in early 2022, we are confident that towards the end of that year the numbers will start increasing significantly,” Krisna said.