While tourism in Cambodia has historically slowed in advance of general elections, tourism leaders in the government and private sector have said they expect this year’s July elections to have little impact on tourist arrivals.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Tourism, international tourist arrivals declined by 16 per cent in 1997 – a year that saw a rise in political violence – though tourist arrivals increased the year of the 1998 general election.
Tourism numbers dipped by 10.9 per cent for the 2003 general election. During the 2008 general election, tourism arrivals increased but at a much slower pace than previous years, slowing from an 18.5 per cent increase in 2007 to just 5.5 per cent in 2008.
Minister of Tourism Thong Khon noted that tourism has increased dramatically in the past few years, particularly in 2012, when Cambodia hosted major regional and international summits.
Khon admitted that political unrest could indeed impact on tourism, but said he believed that Cambodia had little to worry about.
“They don’t come to visit any country if it has unrest in the political situation and upheaval of security,” he said. “However, they also want to see the election in Cambodia. If there is terrorism happening, that will seriously effect tourism, [but] there is no risk at all in Cambodia, and there is no effect on travelling.”
Ho Vandy, co-chair of the government-private sector working group on tourism, said the decrease in tourism prior to the general election in 1998 could be attributed to political infighting, not the election itself. Election years since, he added, have had little impact on tourist arrivals.
“The private sector in tourism, which has partners abroad, raises awareness comprehensively about Cambodia, so there is no effect on Cambodian tourism,” he said “I think if we have any upheaval happening, we all lose in economy and investment.”
Sinan Thourn, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said any drop in tourism in July would be mostly due to the rainy season.