Preparations are “progressing smoothly” for the seventh edition of the annual River Festival – slated to return from March 8-10 after a two-year Covid-19 hiatus – as the event shapes up to be a huge draw for national and international revellers, according to prominent travel industry veteran Chhay Sivlin.

Set to be presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the festival is planned to be held at Stung Sen Park in the namesake town of Kampong Thom province, under a theme officially translated into English as “Our River for Now and Next” that alludes to the conservation of the locality’s main waterway – the Stung Sen River – for the present and the future.

Speaking to The Post on February 20, Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, expressed optimism that the Covid pause will push up attendance at this edition of the festival.

“I believe there’ll be loads of national and international tourists at the upcoming river festival, as this is the first year that the government has decided to organise the festival after Covid,” she said, suggesting that the event could more broadly encourage travel to and within Cambodia.

The Ministry of Tourism will push for more events and initiatives aimed at unlocking the potential of the Cambodian tourism sector nationwide to foster more domestic and international trips, she said, citing minister Thong Khon.

Sivlin underscored that a considerable share of visitors to the Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap pass through Kampong Thom, which she noted boasts plenty of historical and natural attractions, such as the Sambor Prei Kuk Temple Zone, Phnom Santuk hill, Prey Pros lake, and Phat Sanday floating village.

Last week, Kampong Thom provincial governor Nguon Rattanak, Khon, and You Sunlong, minister attached to the prime minister, reportedly conducted an inspection of preparations for the river festival.

The River Festival has been held annually, save for 2021 and 2022, since its first edition was hosted by Kratie province in 2015, and subsequently by Stung Treng (2016), Kampong Cham and Tbong Khmum jointly (2017), Kandal (2018), Kampong Chhang (2019) and Battambang (2020).

Kampong Thom had been chosen for what would have been the seventh edition in 2021. However, the event was postponed due to Covid-19 concerns.