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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tourism recovery begins

Tourism recovery begins

Latest figures show total visitors and air arrivals rose in January

FIGURES released by the Ministry of Tourism Thursday suggested Cambodian tourism is starting to recover after a difficult 2009, as total visitors rose an annualised 6.36 percent in January, which included a nearly 5 percent increase in all-important air arrivals.

Data also showed a dramatic rise in tourists from Cambodia’s two main sources – South Korea and Vietnam – capping a steady upswing from a low base at the start of 2009, the period in which the Kingdom was hit hardest by the global economic crisis. Although overall arrivals climbed 1.7 percent in 2009, air arrivals dropped 10.3 percent, official figures showed.

“We have already received the impact from the crisis. And now it is over, so the sector is on the way to recovery,” Kong Sophearak, director of the Statistics and Tourism Information Department, said Thursday.

South Korean visitors led the spike in air arrivals, reclaiming the top spot with a 39 percent rise in travellers to the Kingdom over second-placed Vietnam, almost all of whose visitors come overland, with a 22 percent increase in arrivals.

South Korean Airlines Asiana, which suspended flights to Siem Reap from Incheon for nearly three months ahead of the tourism high season at the end of last year, saw full loads on its flights four times per week in January to Cambodia’s main tourism hub, Nhim Kimny, the airlines sales and marketing superviser, said Thursday.

Those full loads extended into February, she said, but the real test will once again be at the height of the low season come midyear – flights in January and February were similarly full last year, she added.

“It’s [South Koreans’] holiday period now,” Nhim Kimny said.

Most countries among the top 10 sources of visitors to the Kingdom saw more tourists travel in January compared with last year, including Japan (2.6 percent more), whose economy has struggled to recover from the crisis with just a 0.9 percent official rise in GDP in the last quarter. Australia sent 8 percent more tourists, and visitors from Taiwan increased by 41 percent.

The United States, the number three visitor to Cambodia, saw tourists drop 10 percent, while China saw an unexpected 20 percent fall in tourists to the Kingdom, a surprise given its booming economy and recent high demand for overseas travel as disposable incomes climb and restrictions on foreign holidays are eased.

Overall, however, analysts said the figures were positive, and that a firm recovery would likely take hold throughout the remainder of 2010.

“This year, we are confident of increasing tourism arrivals to Cambodia because the country has an advantageous relationship between quality and price, good customer service and a diversity of offers,” said Mohan Gunti, an adviser to the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents. “There is so much to see in Cambodia.”

Phnom Penh International Airport saw arrivals rise 7.56 percent in January year on year, Thursday’s figures showed, while Siem Reap arrivals climbed just 2.73 percent.

However, Sihanoukville Airport has still not confirmed any flights since renovation was finished at the end of last year.

Asian carriers are expected to post profit of US$900 million in 2010, reversing losses of US$2.7 billion in 2009, as the International Association of Travel Agents on Thursday halved its loss forecast for the global airline industry to $2.8 billion on the back of an Asian-led recovery, AFP reported.

In terms of a Cambodian forecast for the overall industry, Kong Sophearak said Thursday he expected 3-7 percent growth this year. “The sector is in a good position now,” he said.

Mohan said efforts to attract foreign tourists through attractive packages and affordable prices supported by accommodation partners and travel operators would form the strategy for the remainder of 2010.

“All these factors and more will definitely boost the growing tourism industry,” he told the Post.

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