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M'kiri tourism surging

The number of tourists visiting Mondulkiri province has soared by nearly 50 percent this year, after a new road was built to north-eastern Cambodia.

Mondulkiri’s tourist numbers, submitted to the Ministry of Tourism prior to year-end due to an upcoming ASEAN conference, hit 44,568 from January to December 10 this year, up from 30,256 in the same period of last year.

But the total number of visitors to the province was less than half that of its northeastern neighbour Ratanakkiri, which saw 118,556 visitors in the year to December 10.

Ngin Sovimean, director of Mondulkiri’s tourism department, said Mondulkiri saw visitor growth of 47.3 percent this year, compared with 2009.

Domestic visitors increased by 51.5 percent, from 26,836 to 40,652, while foreign visitors rose by 14.5 percent, from 3,420 to 3,916.
The official put the growth down to improved road access to the province.

The 127 kilometre-long National Road 76, which links the province to Snoul district in neighbouring Kratie, was completed about a year ago.

Tourists were also attracted by ethnic minority cultural sites and eco-tourism attractions, as well as natural features including waterfalls and thick forests, he said.

Ratanakkiri province saw relatively modest growth in comparison, with a 3.62 percent increase in visitors this year compared with 2009.
 
Provincial tourism department director Nget Pitou said domestic visitors increased 3.1 percent, from 97,595 to 100,605, while foreign visitors rose around 6.8 percent, from 16,821 to 17,961.

He said the growth was small compared with Mondulkiri province because Ratanakkiri “was far [away] and had a dirt road”, but added that the construction of National Road 78 would allow tourists to drive from Stung Treng to the province in the next two months.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced early last week that he was seeking funds for a US$100 million project to construct a sealed road between Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces.

Travellers wanting to visit both provinces are currently forced to take long detours through Stung Treng and Kratie provinces.

Last month, Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents  noted that “domestic travel is increasing”.

He attributed the rise in part to improved infrastructure, which allowed people to venture further afield within the Kingdom.

Next month, the 30th annual ASEAN tourist forum will be held in Cambodia.

It has been 10 years since the Kingdom last hosted the show, which is an event attended by all ASEAN countries.

More than 1,600 delegates including 400 international buyers are expected to attend the event on Phnom Penh’s Diamond Island.

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