Tourism Representatives Say Let’s Keep Prices Affordable during the Sea Festival

A View of Sihanoukville from above

Government and private sector organizers hope to attract both domestic and international visitors

PHNOM PENH—Tourism tour operators are currently developing travel packages that will combine the 9th Sea Festival to take place in Sihanoukville in December 2022 with   affordable tourist destinations in order to attract more tourists during the 9th Sea Festival​ to take place Dec. 9 through 11 in Sihanoukville.

Efforts have been made to aim for moderately-priced packages following the Ministry of Tourism calling on private tour operators and people in the industry to keep tour-package prices moderate.

“We call on the private sector to put in place package tours that are reasonably priced, lively and flexible in a timely manner to attract both national and international tourists, as well as to reduce travel barriers for tourists,” said Minister of Tourism Thong Khon during a planning meeting for the Sea Festival on June 27.

Although the COVID-19 situation in the country has improved, the number of tourists has not increased as much as before the pandemic due to lifestyle factors, he said.

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said that, as member of the private sector, she will strive to organize a tour package that focuses on the Sea Festival and integrates other tourist destinations in, for example, ecotourism and cultural tourism.

“We are discussing how to make the tour package attractive,” she said. “Not that we increase the price when there is an event,” she added, “[b]ut we will make sure that the participation of all operators makes the price of the tour package attractive.”

Sivlin said she expects the Sea Festival to attract tourists, both national and international although flights and sea fares are a challenge for international tourists coming to Cambodia.

Din Somethearith, president of the Cambodia Hotel Association, said he is optimistic that the Sea Festival will attract Thai tourists. In the past, Thais often came to attend the Sea Festival in Cambodia, he said.

Still, the operators should focus on national tourists because, before the pandemic, the Sea Festival was attracting a large number of people from Phnom Penh, Somethearith said, adding that hotel rates should not go up.

“Even if there is no Sea Festival, hoteliers have to set reasonable rates to attract tourists because now we have fewer guests,” he said. “Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we had 500,000 to 600,000 tourists, but now there are only 50,000 to 60,000. So, we cannot set expensive rates.”

Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak said he cannot give out the details of the festival yet as the Sea Festival Committee will need to meet several times before all is in place.

“Organizing it is not different from what we did before, but the scope of the festival might not be the same as before the pandemic,” he said.

Long Dimanche, Preah Sihanouk Province deputy governor, said the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration is always ready for the Sea Festival in accordance with the decisions of the Ministry of Tourism.

The Sea Festival has been held each year since 2011, except in 2020 and 2021 when it was cancelled due to COVID-19.

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