Visa exemption and addition of border crossings prompted increase, says govt, as South Korean visitors drop about a third compared to same period last year
THE number of Vietnamese tourists visiting the Kingdom in the first six months of 2009 leapt 40 percent compared with the same period last year, figures released by the government Tuesday showed.
That means Vietnam has cemented its position ahead of South Korea as the Kingdom's main source of foreign visitors.
Visitor numbers from South Korea were down one-third from 160,400 in the first six months of 2008 to 106,300 in the same period this year.
The rise in the number of Vietnamese tourists follows an agreement between Cambodia and Vietnam to exempt each other's nationals from obtaining visas.
The figures come from the Ministry of Tourism's latest report, released Tuesday. It shows that 147,700 Vietnamese visited Cambodia in the first six months of the year, up from 105,200 in the same period last year.
We expect that Cambodia will also benefit from the visa exemption.
A total of 209,500 Vietnamese came to the Kingdom last year, a number that looks certain to be eclipsed this year.
The report did not release the numbers of other visitor nationalities, but Japan, the US, Australia and several EU countries typically constitute the other main sources of foreign visitors. The numbers of some, however, have declined sharply as the global economic crisis bites.
Kong Sopheareak, the director at the MOT's statistics and tourism information department, welcomed the rise.
"We hope this increase will be even greater in the future due to the removal of visa requirements for Vietnamese tourists," he said. "It has allowed cross-border transportation and the opening of [three] new border crossings."
The new border crossings are Dak Dam in Ratanakkiri province, Trapaing Srae in Kratie province, and Phnom Den in Takeo province.
Minister of Tourism Thong Khon predicted the number of Vietnamese tourists could rise to 300,000 by the end of the year and said Cambodia has built infrastructure that will facilitate increased arrivals. He said 300 tourist buses a day are crossing into Cambodia from Vietnam.
"We will keep pushing to increase the number of tourists from countries bordering Cambodia through our visa exemption policies and by opening new border crossings to compensate for the falling number of tourists from distant countries," Thong Khon said.
Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Tourism Working Group, said on Tuesday that improvements to infrastructure would enable Cambodia to lure many more Vietnamese tourists than forecast.
"We expect that Cambodia will also benefit from the visa exemption and the opening of new border crossings," he added.