Tourism experts call the return to Sihanoukville of the Bahamas-flagged cruise ship the Seabourn Encore on January 28 a positive sign for the recovery of the Kingdom’s tourism sector.

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said that the docking of the giant cruise ship was an excellent sign. Although the visits were short, each of the ships could carry thousands of passengers, meaning their value as short-term tourists was high.

“The reemergence of Sihanoukville as a destination for ocean liners is an excellent indicator that the Kingdom is firmly on the radar of international tourism operators. The town is developing many attractions to cater to short-term visitors. I hope their visits will become more frequent,” she continued.

According to Sivlin, in the past, a small number of tourists who came on such cruise ships visited other provinces besides Sihanoukville, including Kep, Kampot and Koh Kong. These mini-tours have been suspended since the outbreak of Covid-19, and the visitors are typically in the Kingdom for only a short time.

Preah Sihanouk provincial tourism department director Taing Sochet Krisna said that the tourists who disembarked from the Seabourn Encore visited the beaches, markets and pagodas of Sihanoukville.

“Because they were only here for a short time, we did not see huge economic benefits from their visit. However, we still consider it a positive sign,” he added.

Long Dimanche, deputy provincial governor, said the docking of the liner showed that international visitors have confidence in the Kingdom’s Covid-19 preventative measures.

“This paints a picture to the world of Cambodia’s great potential as a tourism destination. We have the infrastructure to facilitate the docking of such a large vessel, and we are working on expanding it,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, the vessel has a crew of 442, and brought 338 tourists of 22 nationalities on its latest visit, the majority of them from the US, UK and Australia. The ship departed on January 29 and sailed to Vietnam.

This was the third visit by the liner since the onset of the global pandemic and the two years of travel restrictions that followed in its wake, and represents a positive sign that Cambodia’s tourism sector is resilient and ready to welcome tourists by air, land or sea, it added.