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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodian tourism abroad falls amid recession, flu fears

Cambodian tourism abroad falls amid recession, flu fears

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Children play in the water at Occheuteal beach in Sihanoukville earlier this year.

More travellers opt to visit domestic resorts, ecotourism sites

Cambodia's Ministry of Tourism on Thursday said the number of Cambodian tourists visiting foreign countries dropped 78 percent in the first half of 2009 compared with the same period last year.

Kong Sophearak, director of the ministry's Statistics and Tourism Information Department, said Thursday that in the first quarter of last year, 668,555 Cambodian tourists travelled to foreign destinations, but that only 146,056 did so in the first quarter of this year.

Though attributing the drop in part to the global recession and ongoing political turmoil in neighbouring Thailand - a popular destination for Cambodian travellers - Kong Sophearak said the government could not say precisely why so many travellers had decided to stay home.

"We remain unclear about why the number of Cambodian tourists to foreign countries has declined, and whether it will continue to do so," he said.
Ang Kem Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said Thursday that fears of contracting the H1N1 swine flu virus had likely kept many travellers in the Kingdom.

He said Cambodian tourists who booked trips to Thailand, China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines last year have now considered destinations closer to home, including local resorts.

"I think that we will see a jump in tourist numbers as fears over H1N1 begin to ease," he said.

Lav Heng, director of VLK Royal Group, said that in the past Cambodians spending substantial amounts of money on travel wanted to see big cities with a variety of sophisticated shopping options.

"I think that many Cambodians are now finding that sophistication in their own country. We have seen a shift towards Cambodia's coastal areas and ecotourism sites," Lav Heng said.

Ministry of Tourism figures for the first six months of 2009 showed that the total number of Cambodian tourists visiting local resorts stood at 4 million, up approximately 5 percent compared with the same period last year, when 3.8 million visited local resorts.

Last year, 6.7 million Cambodian tourists visited well-known domestic resorts in Phnom Penh and in Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Kep provinces, and ecotourism resorts in Koh Kong, Kratie, Rattanakkiri, Mondulkiri and Stung Treng provinces, Ministry of Tourism figures showed.

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