Water Festival Seats for Foreigners to Boost Tourism

Cambodian people watch dragon boats race during the Water Festival on the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh on November 10, 2019. Photo by AFP / TANG CHHIN Sothy

PHNOM PENH — Foreign tourists will get special seating during the Water Festival from Nov. 26 to 28 in Phnom Penh.

The seats will be set up beside the riverbank near the staging for dignitaries in front of the Royal Palace with views of the boat races, Agence Kampuchea Presse (AKP) said.

Foreign tourists will get free headsets for translation of announcements and narration in English, French and Chinese.

The seats will be arranged by the National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals.

Tourism Ministry Secretary of State Top Sopheak said 250 seats would be arranged for foreign tourists.

He hoped that more international tourists would visit and take part in Water Festival celebrations in Phnom Penh and other provinces as the pandemic situation had improved.

Tour agencies and other private operators are encouraged to spread the information and include the celebration in their tour packages to attract more foreign tourists during the festival.

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), said the inclusion will be a new product to boost tourism during the three-day celebration.

"Tourists want to see what the good things are when celebrating the national holidays so that they want to learn about it," she said. More international tourists usually visited the country when there was a national holiday or festival.

However, the announcement of the Water Festival had come at short notice and agencies had little time to arrange tour packages.

"It was not too late, but we'd rather have a long time to prepare," she said, adding that more warning would have given them more time to spread the information and promote the packages more widely.

The National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals issued the Introductory Plan for the Water Festival on Aug. 9. 

In previous years, the celebrations attracted many international tourists but seats were limited with many domestic tourists joining in.

She urged organizers to place more seats so that more international tourists can see the celebration.

The Water Festival was postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 outbreak and was delayed last year for security reason because Cambodia was hosting the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits at the time.

In 2019, 5.8 million tourists celebrated the Water Festival across the country but only about 90,000 were from abroad.

More than 4.7 million tourists took part in Phnom Penh, of whom about 31,000 were foreigners, and over 8,000 of them used the arranged seats.

The Water Festival is one of the biggest three-day national holidays. It includes boat racing (boun oum touk), lantern illustration floating and moon worshiping (sampeah preah khe), and special offerings to the moon (ok ambok).

This article has been modified to add comments from Tourism Ministry Spokesperson.

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