A beach in Sihanoukville
CONTINUED efforts to spruce up the image of Sihanoukville is essential if the Cambodia coastal town wants to compete with regional beach rivals, trade insiders say.
Mick Spencer, owner of ANA Travel & Tours, said: “It’s a very competitive market. Getting visitors to overlook the beaches of Vietnam and Thailand in favour of Sihanoukville and its surrounding islands needs the ongoing commitment of the authorities and business community.”
Previously dogged with complaints over pollution, litter, poor infrastructure and crime, recent government-led campaigns have seen the destination clean up its act.
The addition of more upscale accommodation, along with improved infrastructure and city beautification projects, have helped Sihanoukville shed its reputation as a seedy backpacker hub.
Latest figures show that one million visitors arrived in Sihanoukville in 1H2016, an increase of 17 per cent year-on-year. However, only 3.1 per cent or, 223,000, were foreign tourists.
The rise in visitors is also due to a boost in accessibility, said Kimhean Pich, CEO and founder of Discover the Mekong.
This year has seen a rise in direct air connections with new links from China and Vietnam, and the government is in talks with Russia and Singapore. Foreign tourists arriving by sea saw a 66 per cent increase, with 29 cruise ships docking at Sihanoukville port to bring 33,000 passengers.
Pich added: “More international connections will bring more international travellers, but we have to keep the beach and town clean, and Sihanoukville attractive, if we want them to return.”