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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tourism task force set to tackle crisis fallout

Tourism task force set to tackle crisis fallout

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The group, made up of government and private sector representatives, hopes to address plummeting tourism arrivals in the wake of the Thai airport takeovers

AFP

Foreign passengers and Thai nationals arriving from Hong Kong wait for their luggage at the arrival terminal of the U-Tapao military airport.

CAMBODIA'S tourism sector is set to form a task force next week to address the Thai political crisis that has caused foreign arrivals in the Kingdom to plummet, officials told the Post Tuesday.

Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said the task force would consist of 10 institutions, including airlines, travel agencies, hotels, restaurants and government departments, and would develop a national strategy to attract foreign tourists.

He said the Ministry of Tourism approved the task force on Tuesday and that it would convene next week.

Both of Bangkok's major airports have been occupied by anti-government protesters since last week, leaving hundreds of thousands of travellers stranded.

The crisis has hit Cambodia's tourism industry hard, as about a third of the Kingdom's visitors arrive via Thailand.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon told the Post earlier that Cambodia would lose about US$100 million if the political stalemate in Bangkok dragged on for more than three months.

Tourism is one of the country's few economic engines, with 1.7 million people visiting the Kingdom in the first 10 months of this year.

At the end of 2007, the government predicted international visitor arrivals to reach 2.2 million in 2008 and 2.7 million in 2009.

It has since curbed its expectations following the global financial crisis, border disputes with Thailand and the current turmoil in Bangkok.

But Ho Vandy said the task force hopes to shift Cambodia's tourist arrivals away from Thailand.

"With the political turmoil in Thailand, the economic crisis and the terrorist attacks in India, we have to take this opportunity to benefit from the current situation," he said.  

"Although most tourists in Cambodia come through Thailand, our tourism sector has survived because we have other gateways such as Malaysia, Singapore, China, South Korea and Vietnam.

Arrivals fall

Miyura Kirivuth, managing director of APEX Travel, said that his business has slowed since the crisis began.

"A lot fewer tourists come through Vietnam than Thailand, so it has hurt us," he said.

Land crossings have also fallen off to near zero, after a brief surge in the days immediately following the airport takeovers in Bangkok.

Pich Saran, chief of immigration police in Poipet, said at least 1,000 people crossed between Thailand and Cambodia from Thursday to Sunday, but that traffic had plummeted since the beginning of December. 

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