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Cancellations hit Cambodia in wake of tsunami

TOUR and travel companies have seen up to 30 percent of Japanese tourists cancel planned trips to Cambodia after Japan’s biggest earthquake on record and a resultant tsunami hit the island nation last week.

Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, confirmed yesterday that between 20 percent and 30 percent of trips had been suspended since the massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck on Friday.

“They [tourists] cancelled their trips because they were shocked at how their relatives were affected by the tsunami and earthquake,” he said, adding that in his view it would not have much overall affect on Cambodia’s tourism sector.

Tour companies also reported cancellations yesterday. Nakha Dayashi, senior adviser of S-Sun Tourists, a Japanese tour company based in Phnom Penh, said yesterday that 20 tour groups had been cancelled – amounting to 52 tourists – following the quake.

Eang Yan, senior manager of Cambodian hotel operator Sokha Group, said yesterday that Japanese scrapped room bookings at the hotel chain across the Kingdom.

“It is true. We [have] got cancellations from Japanese tourists, but we don’t know exactly yet how many,” he said.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Japanese tourists were “a main target we must attract”. But officials at the MoT yesterday remained hopeful that Cambodia would remain a destination for the Japanese.

“We think that it will not affect our plan to attract Japanese tourists to  come to the Kingdom,” said Kong Sophearak, director of the Department of Statistics and Information of the Ministry of Tourism.

“At the moment we don’t know how much the percentage of Japanese tourists expected to come here decreased as a result of the tsunami,” he said. “We will wait to see the statistics in two months.”

According to January data, the 15,474 visitors coming to Cambodia from Japan ranked the nation fifth among the top countries visiting Cambodia.

That was a 7.1-percent increase compared with the same period last year.

Japanese tourists to the Kingdom jumped 6 percent in 2010 from 2009.

While visitors from Japan may be temporarily affected, international tourists visiting the Kingdom through Poipet International Checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province increased over 19 percent in February compared to the same period last year, officials at the checkpoint said yesterday.

The increase at the Thai border came despite recent deadly clashes between Thailand and Cambodia near Preah Vihear temple.

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