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Sea transport cancellations sink business owners on islands

Jason Boken / Khmer Times Share:
Tourists waiting to board boats which will take them to the idyllic islands off Sihanoukville. KT/Jason Boken

Businesses on the southern islands of Cambodia are feeling the impact of cancelled boat rides that usually run to and from Sihanoukville. Reports are emerging that a recent lack of boat services have caused cancellations at guest houses and is also hampering the transportation of essential supplies for restaurants and bars.

Off the southern coast of Cambodia lies some of the most idyllic islands in Southeast Asia. The islands are home to many businesses including hotels, bars, restaurants and dive shops.

Since earlier this year, though, things have started to slow down in the tourism sector because of COVID-19. Consequently, the number of people visiting the likes of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem has plummeted.

Now the islands have been dealt another bad blow. Recent weather warnings have caused boat companies to cancel their trips, leading to a drop in business at a time when tourism is needed the most.

Not only have passenger boat rides been cancelled, supply boats that delivers necessities such as food and beverages to local businesses have also not been commuting regularly.

Dave Dobson co-owner of Reef Resort, Koh Rong, said: “The boats stopping their services has affected our business for sure. The passenger boats not running has caused cancellations from guests who were going to stay with us. The supply boat was also not running as often either and it is hard for us to know how to order food and drink conservatively.”

The businesses set up directly on the islands are also feeling the impact of COVID-19 and less boats running, but they are not the only ones struggling. Two of the most popular boat companies (Speed Ferry Cambodia and Buva Sea) have reported a drop in business by up to 90 percent.

A spokesperson for Buva Sea said: “We have had to let some of our staff go.  It has been very quiet here for us. The virus has stopped tourists from coming to visit the islands but the weather has also been affecting our business lately. All of the businesses in this area are going through this hard time together.”

The Ministry of Water Resources has called on residents to be extra vigilant for possible thunderstorms, lightning and strong winds, especially in the provinces of the central lowland and coastal areas. This warning is especially relevant to fishermen and seafarers, who can expect heavy storms and high waves.

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