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Accommodations across Siem Reap reopen to initial trickle of guests

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Last year, 259 hotels comprising 14,453 rooms and 294 guesthouses containing 3,171 units were closed nationwide. Heng Chivoan

Accommodations across Siem Reap reopen to initial trickle of guests

Siem Reap’s accommodation services sector is showing more encouraging signs of recovery, as a wave of reopenings drives up the number of available hotel and guesthouse rooms in the province to nearly 30,000, according to official sources.

This comes after plans to fully reopen the Kingdom across all sectors kicked off last month, and as an ambitious $150 million 38-road project in the province nears completion, both of which many hope will spur domestic and international tourism.

But not all private sector actors are convinced that the sector has the upward momentum indicated by the authorities.

As of December 8, nearly 20,000 hotel rooms and 8,000 guesthouse units are available, after the establishments had been closed for nigh on two years due to Covid, which has plagued the global tourism industry, the Siem Reap provincial Department of Tourism reported.

Department director Ngov Sengkak shared that on any given weekend or national holiday there are typically about 6,000 travellers in the province, which he highlighted abounds in nature and heritage tourism potential.

“Currently, all segments – including services, restaurants, hotels and guesthouses – have resumed operations, which will help boost the national economy,” he said, noting that Covid has ravaged the province’s tourism sector, shuttering 80-90 per cent of hotels and guesthouses.

But Cambodian Hotel Association president Din Somethearith noted that the number of visitors to the province nowadays are scant, even with hotels and guesthouses up and running.

“They’ve started up their businesses, but there’s just no international guests. Of note, the number of Cambodian holidaymakers is very small compared to the loads of hotel and guesthouse rooms on hand, and we Cambodians only go on trips during festivals.

“In Siem Reap, many hotels used to receive nearly three million visitors a year. That has now fallen by more than 90 per cent,” he told The Post on December 9.

On the other hand, he underscored that with reopening plans afoot, airlines are preparing to fly back into the Kingdom, which he said would bode well for hotels and guesthouses that plan to open their doors later this month or early in January.

He noted that Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines are set to resume flights to Cambodian soon, including to Siem Reap.

However, the Kingdom is on tenterhooks to hear from scientists just how bad the recently-detected SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.529 variant, or Omicron, will be, and concerns linger over how the government could respond, and what this will mean for the battered tourism sector.

New quarantine measures could mean that many would-be visitors to the province may have to adjust their travel plans, Somethearith said.

Similarly, Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan suggested that the provincial tourism department’s report could have overstated the number of open hotels and guesthouses.

He said three- and four-star hotels had yet to reopen due to the limited number of tourists to the province.

“Given my observations, I do not agree with the Siem Reap provincial Department of Tourism. There’s still a high risk in Siem Reap, bearing in mind that not many local sightseers visit regularly – unlike in southwestern provinces such as Kampot and Kep – save for major festival seasons.”

Reopening plans may have not brought in as many international tourists as some had anticipated, he said, noting that few have booked flights for this month or early 2022 due to Omicron fears.

Last year, 259 hotels comprising 14,453 rooms and 294 guesthouses containing 3,171 units were closed nationwide, and the worst-affected areas were the capital and the provinces of Siem Reap, Svay Rieng, Kampot, Banteay Meanchey and Battambang, the Ministry of Tourism reported.

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