At the Mekong Tourism Forum between the 12-14 July, 2016, Mr Nitha Chanta Secretary of State of Kingdom of Cambodia gave an interview to members of the press regarding new developments in Cambodia, and how they are planning to attract more tourists to Cambodia, and especially Sihanoukville where the forum was being held as a stand alone destination.

5 Hour Road Trip – Are We Nearly There Yet?

Sihanoukville is one of Cambodia’s key tourist destinations located along the Cambodian coastal line. It is a rising star in Cambodia’s southwest, however the downside is that it takes quite a bit of time and an extra dash of patience to get there.

“We only have one road linking to it from the capital, Phnom Penh, though there are plans to build a highway in the future. We have a small airport that has just been reopened after a temporary closure due to some political issues. The runway is limited – 2000m long, but we plan to extend the runway”, said, Mr Chanta.

“There are many direct flights from Siem Reap and China to Sihanoukville. We hope to also have direct flights from Singapore, Bangkok and Russia opening soon. We will work with our Russian counterparts to start to attract more Russian tourists once we improve the airport” added Mr Chanta.

He continued, “I think in the future you will be able to fly from U Ta Pao airport near Pattaya, meaning that it would take less than one hour. It will be good since there are a million visitors already there in Pattaya”.

Deep Sea Port

Another perk for Sihanoukville, according to the Secretary of State is that there is a deep sea port with arrivals from Singapore and Miami

The ferry terminal is a work in progress and is being supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The project is moving forward with financial assistance already approved of approximately USD$9 million. This 4 acre port is comprised of a tourist pier that links to the southern portion of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam,  which will open a doorway for up to 5 million visitors per year.

Stephen Schipani from ADB believes that this will be a new, very popular international gateway. The construction contract will be bidded on sometime in 2017, and the estimated time time of completion is said to be around early 2018.

Public Management Agreement with Visas and Immigration Checkpoints

Cambodia isn’t a stand-alone destination, and there is still quite a bit of work that needs to be done if they really want to get the tourist numbers that they are looking for.  Opening borders is one of those strategies. “We need to talk to the governments of our neighboring countries and work on this together”, said Mr Chanta.

Visas are an important issue, especially for western tourists.  This isn’t only an issue for Cambodia, but is also a common sore point for western tourists throughout all of the countries of the Mekong Sub-Region.