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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Security scares hit tourism

Security scares hit tourism

F ENEWED instability in the country, including the abduction of four foreigners

appears to be causing a decline in the tourism industry.

Chhay Sarak,

office manager of Bopha Angkor Tourism, an agency which normally organizes tour

packages for more than 200 visitors a month, said his agency had experienced

great trouble since early April.

He said: "Between 60 and 70 percent of

tourists intending to visit the country have canceled their flight


"American and Japanese tour groups in particular are

canceling their trips because their governments warn them not to come.


Chan Seurn, the owner of the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap ferry service,

said in the last few weeks his foreign passengers have almost disappeared


"We use to have many foreign visitors go with us, now we have very few

and they are very hesitant .

"On average we had 40 passengers of which

15 to 20 were foreign backpackers, I don't know why but suddenly they've just


"They told me the boat trip is very good, many of them

enjoying the great views along the Tonle Sap, but now they are more afraid."

He said foreigners always asked him for detailed information on the

security issue.

"Our boats have not been in any danger but the

foreigners seem very scared, much more than local people."

Reth Chantha,

a training officer with the Ministry of Tourism, said:

"In deciding

whether to visit Cambodia, tourists depend very much on the information their

embassy gives them.

"The embassies have raised the alarm bells in their

countries which is stopping the tourists from coming at the moment."


added: "Another reason numbers are down is because its the end of the tourist

season, there is normally a decline in visitors between May and


"The recent situation may have only had a small impact on tourism

because there has been no real peace in this country for 10 years - the tourists

already know it is a dangerous place.

"But the situation has affected

some tourists, especially those who wished to travel to Angkor Wat by car or


"I understand traveling by car or boat is not 100 percent safe, not

only for foreigners but also locals who say they experience trouble


Chantha said Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat are safe for tourists.

"However 20 to 30 percent of tourists are backpackers traveling by car

or boat which may be unsafe."

The government has been pinning a lot of

hope on an expanding tourism industry helping to provide hardcurrency to help

kickstart the war-torn economy.

Officials and tourism experts had been

expecting overall arrivals to double this year to 200,000.

The Ministry

of Tourism also staged a highly successful return to international trade fairs

at Berlin in March.

Some travelers chose to deliberately disregard

embassy travel warnings.


A French backpacker calling himself only Stefan said he was planning to take

a taxi to Sisophon from Siem Reap and then take a train to Battambang. He said:

"I am not worrried by bandits or the Khmer Rouge, it will be an adventure."



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