A 10 percent jump in tourism arrivals in July eroded losses over the first six months of the year, according to unofficial numbers released by Tourism Minister Thong Khon.
More than 163,000 people visited the country last month, he said, bringing arrivals for the first seven months of the year to 1,284,085, a 0.3 percent rise on the 1,246,685 million visitors through to the end of July 2008.
Figures for the first six months of the year show a 1.1 percent fall in visitor arrivals, compared with a year earlier, to 1,086,518. The figures include tourists and business travellers.
An increase in visitors from neighbouring Laos and Vietnam offset a huge fall in arrivals from South Korea, which was the single largest source country for foreign visitors in the early part of 2008 until the bottom fell out of the country's economy.
"The opening of tourism hubs, such as new border crossings and the new national air carrier, a lowering on tourism service prices and efforts to facilitate transport routes into Cambodia were key ways to draw tourists from the region, as well as those from European, during the [financial] crisis," Thong Khon said.
However, he warned that the majority of Vietnamese tended to visit Phnom Penh rather than Siem Reap, meaning the downturn in visitors from South Korea was still felt strongly in Cambodia's main tourism hub.
Accurate numbers were unavailable for July, but visitors from South Korea fell 33 percent year-on-year over the first half from 160,446 to 106,345. Arrivals from Vietnam were up 40 percent over the same period from 105,275 to 147,721, while Laotian visitors increased 141 percent to 52,708.
Thong Khon said arrivals from Vietnam were up 46 percent year-on-year in July.
"Vietnamese tourists still lead tourists from all other countries, followed by those from South Korea and America," he said.
Tourism figures show 79,657 Americans visited during the first six months of the year, marginally up on a year earlier, 70,183 Japanese, down 13.5 percent, and 234,439 Europeans, marginally down on the first six months of 2008.
Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Government-Private Sector Forum's Tourism Working Group, said the slight recovery in July had been noticed. "[It's] a good sign for all of us who earn a living in the tourism sector, and we are not so concerned now about the slow months earlier this year," he said.
Ho Vandy is also the owner of World Express Tours & Travel.
Cambodia's Hotel Association (CHA) President Luu Meng said the number of bookings in hotels was increasing, indicating the recovery was the start of better times ahead. "We have received more reservations and bookings from people coming to stay and visit our country, mostly from Japan, Europe and America," he said.
Thong Khon said he was optimistic arrivals would expand between 2 percent and 3 percent from 2008, when 2.12 million people visited Cambodia.