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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Revenue from tourism falls around 2pc in difficult 2009

Revenue from tourism falls around 2pc in difficult 2009

Sector analysts point to shorter lengths of stay and less spending following crisis.

Last year, foreign tourists tried to reduce their
expenses.

REVENUE generated from the Kingdom’s tourism sector fell by about 2 percent last year as the sector suffered a drop in spending amid the fallout from the economic crisis, a Ministry of Tourism official told the Post.

Director of Tourism and Statistics Kong Sophearak said the industry generated revenues of US$1.561 billion in 2009 compared to $1.595 billion the previous year despite an overall 1.7 percent rise in the number of visitors to Cambodia, according to ministry figures.

“Last year, foreign tourists tried to reduce their expenses by reducing their stay and downgrading from high-end hotels to cheaper ones,” he said. “Although the number of foreign tourists to Cambodia went up last year, most of them were from the region, not from European countries.”

A Ministry of Tourism report showed that while total visitors climbed in 2009, air arrivals sank as Vietnamese visitors claimed the number one spot from South Koreans – visitors from neighbouring Vietnam climbed 51 percent last year, and those from Laos were up 55 percent.

Kong Sophereak said that Cambodia had therefore effectively replaced higher-spending Western tourists with visitors who stayed a shorter time and spent less.

Typically a Vietnamese traveller to the Kingdom would stay just three days and spend as little as $150 during a trip, explained Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA). A European visitor, by comparison, would usually stay about 10 days and spend many times more, he added.

“The global economic crisis was a significant factor in regards to the decline in tourism sector revenue as tourists’ incomes were hit, therefore they needed to secure expenses,” he said.

Although the Kingdom’s aim of attracting tourists from a wide range of countries had appeared to have paid off in some respects given the overall rise in tourist numbers, measures such as granting visitors from certain countries free visas had delivered little impact, said Mohan Gunti, a CATA advisor and member of the tourism working group which liaises with the government.

Still, Kong Sophearak forecast that further government measures – including the promise of further direct air links to the Kingdom, which will soon include a route to Indonesia – and a general improvement in the world's economy, and that of Cambodia, would help avoid a further drop in tourism revenues during this year.

“We have taken a lot of action to promote the tourism sector,” he said.

Recent rebound
Kim Eang said there had been recent evidence of an upsurge in visitors to the Kingdom’s main tourism sites including to Angkor Wat.

“Things have become positive now,” he said. “The number of tourists from the region, as well as from Europe visiting the ancient Angkor temples has risen.”

Mohan said that further cooperation among the private- and public-sector stakeholders would be required to continue promoting Cambodia as a tourism destination.

“The crisis is over, so things are moving,” he told the Post.

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