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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Visitor numbers rise, but less than hoped

Visitor numbers rise, but less than hoped

Cambodia’s northwestern provinces of Siem Reap, Battambang and Preah Vihear all had stable increases in visitor numbers in the first six months of the year, according to figures from their provincial tourism departments.

Siem Reap, which was ranked second among the top 10 best Asian cities for tourists in a poll of readers of Travel + Leisure magazine last week, received just an average increase of visitors to June.

Chung Sokhemarak, deputy director of the tourism department of Siem Reap province, said that despite the impact of the political unrest in neighbouring countries – the coup in Thailand and tensions in Vietnam over a sovereignty dispute with China – the province had still enjoyed a stable rise.

Siem Reap received 1.2 million foreign visitors from January to June, a little over 10 per cent more than in the same period last year, with 1.3 million local visitors, up by 33 per cent.

“This is an average increase for the province, but starting from this month, we will see the figures drop down due to the low season,” he said referring to rainy season, which can make it difficult for tourists to spend time at Angkor Wat.

Sokhemarak added, however, that the province still expected to receive 2.5 million visitors this year, with numbers increasing from October, when the rain begins to clear.

Receiving recognition as the country’s cleanest city from the Tourism National Committee in March, Battambang has received 209,000 local visitors to June, up 9 per cent from the same period last year, while foreign visitors increased 4.5 per cent to 43,000.

Uch Omthiny Sara, director of the Battambang tourism department, said yesterday that the province was benefiting from foreign tourists arriving through international checkpoints on the Thai border before moving on to Siem Reap and Pursat.

But, Omthiny Sara said, months of political unrest in Thailand had resulted in smaller visitor numbers than the department had hoped for by this time of the year.

“We have already seen fewer foreign tourists visiting the province this month, but we hope the province will be able to see an average increase of 10 per cent for the year, as we have set out plans to keep the number up.”

Battambang, known as a city of heritage and popular for its French colonial architecture and bamboo train, is considering plans to create a 500-metre-long nightlife strip, similar to Siem Reap’s pub street, to cater to more foreign tourists, Omthiny Sara said.

In Preah Vihear province, where Monday marked the sixth anniversary of Preah Vihear Temple’s World Heritage listing, foreign visitors reached more than 6,700 in the first six months of the year, an increase of about 29 per cent.

The number of local visitors was up by nearly 57 per cent to about 56,800, according to official figures.

You Sovann, the deputy director of the Preah Vihear tourism department, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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