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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tourist data show slow rise

Tourists entering Cambodia from Thailand through the Cham Yeam border crossing in Koh Kong province this month
Tourists entering Cambodia from Thailand through the Cham Yeam border crossing in Koh Kong province this month. Heng Chivoan

Tourist data show slow rise

Cambodia's tourism industry, which for years has seen double-digit growth, is now showing signs of slowing down as Thai visitors to the Kingdom decline, according to the latest government data.

The latest half-yearly report from the Ministry of Tourism shows arrivals totalled 2.2 million between January and June this year, up 5 per cent from the same period last year.

But the marginal rise bucks a year-on-year trend of increases ranging between 13 and 26 per cent as seen at the halfway point of every year from 2010 to 2013.

Kong Sophearak, director of the Ministry of Tourism’s statistics department, said the dampened growth has primarily stemmed from a decline in overland arrivals from Thailand over the past six months.

“Since the end of the global financial crisis, Cambodia has seen consistent double-digit increases in arrivals. But so far this year, that figure has fallen due to less people arriving from Thailand through the border gates,” he explained.

According to Sophearak, overland arrivals from Thailand to Cambodia through the Poipet border gate declined 23 per cent during the first half of the year, while air travel between the two nations continued to grow. In total, the number of Thai arrivals to Cambodia equalled 106,000, down more than 4 per cent from the same period last year.

“The political situation has dampened outward tourism to Cambodia. But from this point, I believe we will see tourism figures as a whole steady out to an end-of-year growth average of 8 per cent.”

Earlier this month, during a press tour of Thailand, Thawatchai Arunyik, the governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand told the Post that the long-standing political turmoil in Thailand had impacted the country’s tourism industry especially with regards to travellers venturing to Cambodia.

“We have to promote together as we are neighbours,” he said.

“In the past, we had promoted the two Kingdoms as one destination. People who come to Thailand, they don’t just stop in Thailand, they go on to visit Cambodia too.”

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Private and Public Sector Working Group, said he was confident tourism figures would recover in the second half of the year as Thailand recoups its own numbers, as Cambodia’s peak tourist season returns in October and as direct flights to Japan become available.

“This mid-year figure is not definitive of the end-of-year result. We have just been through the low season,” Vandy said, adding that direct flights to Japan from Cambodia were planned to start as early as next month.

The Japanese tourism market, meanwhile, was among the larger vistor number increases during the first six months of this year, according to the government’s data, with arrivals to the Kingdom reaching more than 107,000, up 12 per cent compared to the same six-month period last year.

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