Hotel and guesthouse operators in formerly busy provincial tourism
spots say rooms are empty as travellers stick to the capital in hard
Tourists at the Angkor Wat ruins in Siem Reap. Hotel operators outside of Phnom Penh report fewer bookings than last year.
DESPITE government assurances that the Kingdom's tourism sector remains strong, hotel and guesthouse owners in Cambodia's popular provincial destinations say bookings have dropped as much as 80 percent over last year's numbers.
Operators cite the global economic crisis, political turmoil in Thailand and territorial disputes along the Thai-Cambodian border as the leading causes behind their empty rooms.
Mer Veasna, manager of the Sesan guesthouse in Ratanakkiri province's capital Banlung, said room bookings plummeted nearly 70 percent from last year.
"Our bookings started to drop in April. [Tourists] do not come to Ratanakkiri because they are scared about the situation along the border with Thailand," he told the Post on Monday.
A supervisor at the Ratanak Hotel in Ratanakkiri who asked not to be named said he did nearly 80 percent more business last year.
"It is very quiet this year. There are many days when I get no customers at all, while last year I had five to six guests per day," he said.
Even hotel operators in Cambodia's most popular tourism hubs say fewer travellers are booking accommodations.
Chem Vicheat, office manager at the Golden Sand Hotel in Sihanoukville, said the number of foreign guests at his hotel has declined 30 percent from last year.
"The drop in our guest bookings was the result of the global crisis and the closing of Bangkok's airports," he said, referring to sit-in protests at Thailand's Suvanabhumi and Don Muaeng airports by the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy, which led to the closure of both airports last month.
A staff member at the Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap - Cambodia's most popular tourist destination - said the 192-room hotel last year reached 50 to 60 percent occupancy. But this year's has remained below 40 percent.
The growing number of hotels in Siem Reap has made it harder to fill rooms, he added.
"As the number of hotels and guesthouses increases, we have to compete much harder [for business]," said the staff member, who asked not to be named.
Kong Sophearak, director of the Statistics Department at the Ministry of Tourism, said the ministry has yet to calculate the exact number of new hotels, but he estimated that tourism destinations such as Siem Reap and Sihanoukville have each seen three or four new businesses opened.
He said there were 395 hotels and 891 guesthouses operating throughout Cambodia last year, accounting for a total of 32,033 rooms.
He added that while this year's international arrivals have remained steady, most of them were no longer travelling to the provinces. "They mostly stay in Phnom Penh," he said.