THE number of Thai tourists visiting Cambodia in the first two months of 2011 fell sharply year-over-year despite a significant increase in overall foreign visitors to the Kingdom, the Ministry of Tourism said yesterday.
While the total number of foreign visitors to Cambodia jumped 16.5 percent to 529,970 in January and February compared to the same period last year, visitors from Thailand fell 31.6 percent year-over-year to 19,504.
The ministry pointed to the border clashes centred around Preah Vihear and resulting tensions between the two countries, which started in early February, for the decline.
Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said yesterday that Cambodia welcomes all international tourists, especially Thais, but that they have been reluctant to enter the Kingdom since those clashes broke out.
“We never stop Thai tourists from coming in. We always welcome them, but they didn’t come,” Thong Khon said, adding that he thinks the Thais should not be worried about visiting Cambodia.
Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Tourism Working Group, said the border fights were not the reason for the decline in Thai tourists. Instead it was internal political turmoil in that country and Thailand’s struggling economy.
“If the situation in Thailand improves, and there is a good diplomatic and trade relationship with Cambodia, I believe that [the number of] Thai tourists will be increasing again,” he said on Monday.
A combination of stability here in Cambodia and an increase in tourism promotions should boost tourism to the Kingdom this year, the Ministry of Tourism said.
The Ministry has forecast 2.73 million visitors for 2011 and expects revenue from the sector to total $1.91 billion. The number of visitors to the Kingdom increased 16 percent in 2010 compared to the previous year, with around 2.5 million foreigners entering Cambodia.
Among the top 10 countries coming to Cambodia in January and February, Vietnam was number one with a 13.4-percent increase to 80,183 year-over-year, followed by South Korea and China, which rose 39.4 percent and 40.7 percent year-over-year, respectively, the Ministry said.