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Tourism operators shrug off festival losses

Tourism operators shrug off festival losses

Sihanoukville tourism industry operators have had mixed reactions to the Cambodian government’s announcement that the music festival KaZantip will be cancelled.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon announced earlier this week that the KaZantip festival, which was scheduled to take place on the privately-owned island of Koh Puos from February 18 to 28, would be cancelled due to indecency and “nakedness”.

“I had four Russian couples staying for 14 days at $30 per night, and two have already cancelled,” said Vincent Chevallier, owner of the Wildside Villa Otres.

“I’ve got a very small guesthouse, and now I’m going to lose quite a bit of money, and I’m not the only one.”

But the government’s cancellation of the festival, which has long been held in Crimea and attracted Eastern European party-goers, has not impacted all Sihanoukville hotel and guesthouse operators.

Torie McElwain, manager of the Secret Garden guesthouse, said the business she worked at was comparatively unaffected as it was far from the cheaper backpacker hotspots of Victory and Serendipity beach.

She said that while Eastern European visitors were “absolutely” a large part of Sihanoukville’s economy, the local tourism scene was slowly shifting away from party-oriented backpackers like KaZantip’s revellers.

“Quite a few resorts are planning to build places that cater to more expensive clientele.”

KaZantip organisers said they had scaled down the amount of people expected to attend the event from 1500 to 1000 partly due to the Russian ruble’s decline, which has hurt some travellers’ plans.

The ruble has fallen 50 per cent against the US dollar since February 2014. $1 now buys 66 rubles, according to currency website XE.

Tom Nahmias Steinmetz, owner of the Deluxx Boutique Hotel and Serviced Apartments, said people are only concerned because they anticipated the arrival of “rich Russians” to the coastal town during the KaZantip festival.

“But in reality there was no booking boom around the dates, so the actual hit would be less than it seemed,” he explained.

About 132,000 Russian tourists visited Cambodia in 2013, a number which was forecast to rise to 150,000 in 2015 by the Ministry of Tourism.

Sihanoukville tourism officials maintained their position on the festival’s indecency.

“We want the tourists to come, but we do not want them to come like that,” Nou Sophal, director of the Sihanoukville Tourism Department, said yesterday.

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