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Tourist arrivals top 1 million for first half of 2008

Tourism officials are confident of breaking the 2 million mark by year’s end, despite tensions over Preah Vihear

Heng Chivoan

Tourist sightsee along the main walkway at Angkor Wat.

D

espite warnings of potential unrest, international visitor arrivals have reached over a million for the first six months of 2008, representing a 13 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Tourism’s Statistical Report.

“The number of tourist arrivals in Cambodia is still growing despite border problems with Thailand,” said Kong Sopheareak, the ministry’s director of the Statistics and Tourism Information Department.

“I think the temple tension does not affect the tourists’ arrivals,” said Suos Yara, deputy director general of Cambodia National Tourist Authority.

He said he expects at least 2.3 million tourists by the end of 2008.

“We don’t have any formula to calculate the benefits from tourism, but [the World Trade Organisation] estimates that a single tourist spends around US$600 to US$700 in Cambodia,” Suos Yara said.

Ho Vandy, president of Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said, “Tourist arrivals declined in June for three reasons: the high price of transportation, the election in Cambodia and the temple confrontation.”

Tourist arrivals declined from about 150,000 in May to 130,000 in June, according to the latest Tourism Statistical Report.

Ho Vandy partially blamed widespread media coverage of the temple dispute for scaring tourists away, warning that many may yet cancel their holidays or change their destinations.

He recommended that the government host a press conference to talk about the situation at Preah Vihear temple and project an image of safety and stability to overseas tourism markets, perhaps enlisting the aid of Cambodian embassies.

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