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Border row hurts tourist numbers in Preah Vihear

Despite an increase in tourism nationwide, Preah Vihear province saw a 4 per cent year-on-year decline last year as the result of the violent border clashes between Cambodia and Thailand, according provincial tourism officials.

Preah Vihear province’s Tourism Department reported yesterday that the total number of visitors for 2011 fell to about 125,000 from more than 130,000 the previous year.

Kong Vibol, director of Ministry of Tourism’s provincial branch in Preah Vihear, blamed the decline on the months-long border row between the two countries, near the 1,000-year-old Hindu Preah Vihear temple, from February to June.

“The problem is what we all already knew. We had a problem earlier in the year, leading to a decline in tourists,” he said, referring to the dispute.

Despite an overall drop in tourism to the province, Kong Vibol said that foreign visitors to Preah Vihear temple increased more that 30 per cent, reaching about 6,250.

However, this increase was not tourism-related, as the visitors consisted primarily of foreign archaeological and military experts who inspected the temple after the heavy fighting.

Kong Vibol said this year’s decline in tourism was a direct result of the temporary conflict with Thailand, and that the declines seen last year were not indicative of a longer-term trend.

Since the fighting has ended, there has been an increase in tourism infrastructure development in the province, he said. He noted that the access road to the temple is mow under construction, and that restaurants and guesthouses were also being developed near the landmark.

For the New Year holiday, December 28 to 31, Preah Vihear province received 783 tourists, with the temple accounting for 660 visitors out of that total, according to provincial officials.

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