The occupation of Bangkok's airports has closed Cambodia’s main tourist transit point, putting the choke on foreign travel
Anti-government protesters stand guard while blocking the entrance at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok.
CAMBODIA stands to lose more than US$100 million in tourism-related revenue if the political deadlock gripping Thailand's capital - a major transit point for visitors to the Kingdom - does not ease in the next three months, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon told the Post Sunday.
The minister estimated that 1,500 tourists arrive daily by air and land from Bangkok, accounting for nearly 30 percent of total travellers, and that foreign visitors spend $770 on average per trip.
He added that the government expects the turmoil in Bangkok could last for at least a few months.
"At least 10 to 12 flights arrive every day in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh via Bangkok," Thong Khon said. "We are sure to lose substantial numbers of tourists."
The anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy last week stormed Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in an attempt to bring down the government of Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.
Thai government officials have since declared a state of emergency at both airports, which have cancelled all flights.
Despite an increase in arrivals from other countries, the number of overall visitors has dropped, Thong Khon said.
"There are many passengers travelling via Hanoi, Japan and Korea, but not as many as we had coming from Bangkok," he said.
"Cambodia wants Thailand to return to normal. If [the situation in] Bangkok continues to deteriorate, it will impact our tourism sector," he said.
Thong Khon urged tourism operators to continue marketing Cambodia as a safe travel destination.
Tes Chhaya, a tour guide in Siem Reap, said the crisis in Bangkok has taken a toll on local businesses, including hotels, tourism packages and taxis.
"At this time last year, I would have bookings for nearly 15 days out of every month. Now, we are getting only about five days of bookings per month," he said, adding that his profits have dropped more than 50 percent.
Independent economist Sok Sina said the political turmoil, as well as the global financial crisis, has affected Cambodia's tourism sector this year, making it unlikely to achieve the growth projected by the government.
"Cambodia will not likely reach its target of two million visitors this year," he said, adding that a drop in visitors to Siem Reap would also hurt local farmers who supply produce and meat to area hotels.
Analysts expect the crisis in Bangkok to drag on with the army and police refusing to act on government demands to disband the demonstrators.
Meanwhile, pro-government groups have threatened to directly confront the People's Alliance in what observers fear would be an eruption of bloodshed that could spark a coup.