Proposal to ease Cambodia’s visas

July 23, 2014 by  
Filed under Cambodia, News

SIHANOUKVILLE, 23 July 2014: Giving tourists visa-free entry to Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s top beach resort area, could be a major boost for tourism, according to industry experts.

The recommendation is based on similar incentives introduced by Vietnam to boost travel to Phu Quoc Island.

Private-Public Tourism Sector Working Group co-chair, Ho Vandy, told local media that the government should consider introducing a visa-free policy similar to the one Vietnam adopted for Phu Quoc Island in an effort to boost beach destination tourism.

“If our government is smart, they will think about this…in the past, members of the commercial tourism sector recommended scrapping compulsory visas for all tourists travelling to Cambodia,” he said.

But that is unlikely prompting the working group members to recommend visa-free travel to specifically boost alternative tourism at beach resorts. Cambodia’s tourism is mainly heritage related, linked to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, while its beach resorts play a very marginal role.

He addded: “The Vietnamese government was smart to introduce a visa-free zone. We would also like to see a similar strategy in Cambodia to attract the tourists from Siem Reap.”

Moreover, he suggested the government should provide incentives to the tourism and aviation sector to invest in Sihanoukville’s infrastructure development.

Vietnam Airlines announced it will commence operating direct flights three times per week between Siem Reap and Phu Quoc from 1 November. The new connectivity could detract tourists from Cambodia’s own coastal resort, Sihanoukville. Phu Quoc Airport, which opened for its first domestic flights last December after a four-year construction period, is located just 50 km from Cambodia’s Sihanoukville.

Effective last March, visitors to Phu Quoc can stay visa-free for 30 days, differentiating it from all other destinations in Vietnam.

However, Cambodia’s authorities might balk at giving visa-free entry to visitors at a mainland beach resort as opposed to an island where it is easier to control passage.

In 2013, just 20,000 passengers flew between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville airports, according to Cambodia Airports’ data. That figure is on the rise with the coastal airport already welcoming more than 24,000 visitors in June this year – an increase of 146% over the same period last year.

It would also be quite difficult to manage a visa-free policy at just one destination as most travellers would also want to visit Siem Reap where a visa-on-arrival is required.

Visa-free travel would only have value for tourists who intended to fly direct from their home countries to Sihanoukville without visiting other destinations in Cambodia.

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