Vietnam-Cambodia waterway connection draws mixed response

A water link connecting Vietnam’s Phu Quoc island with the Cambodian coast may be a hit with regional tourists but may prove to be a damp squib with Western markets, industry experts predict.

In a bid to boost tourism throughout Cambodia’s Kep province – home to the seaside resort of Kep and riverine Kampot town – officials are preparing to connect the two destinations by speed boat.

To boost tourism in Cambodia’s Kep province, Phu Quoc and Kep will be connected via speed boat; Kampot town pictured

Jacques Guichandut, managing director, All Dreams Cambodia, said while the move will stimulate demand for the two countries, especially among regional travellers, it holds limited appeal to his mainly European and American clientele.

He noted: “This is a combination we won’t put forward. Phu Quoc’s main attraction is its beach resorts, but in Cambodia, we also have a choice of beach resorts on the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem.”

Sinan Thourn, chairman of PATA Cambodia and B2B Travel, agreed, saying Phu Quoc is “not an option for combination tours” with his clients. Instead, they prefer to connect with Vietnamese destinations such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, or the Mekong Delta area.

Alexander Leven, general manager of Asian Trails Vietnam, said mini excursions to Kep have potential with longhaul holidaymakers to Phu Quoc, where activities are predominantly limited to the beach and water.

Leven added: “The natural and cultural excursions are limited and Kep would definitely fill a gap. I can imagine European travellers loving to make a day trip to Cambodia during their two-week beach stay to get some stimulus other than relaxing.”

However, visa requirements for both countries hamper possibilities.

Currently, a 30-day tourist visa for Cambodia costs US$25. Vietnam offers visa-free entry for several European countries. But holders cannot re-enter on the same visa.

Leven stated: “Visa regulations will come into play and I’m afraid it will fail because of that. If they come up with a system where they make this visa-free, I will definitely consider offering this option.”

Pham Ha, founder of Lux Travel DMC, added the offering will appeal to Vietnamese and other ASEAN holidaymakers who can travel visa-free.

“It’s a good move as it connects Phu Quoc with lesser-known areas in Cambodia and offers Vietnamese travellers the chance to visit places like Sihanoukville and Rabbit Island with ease,” he said.

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