Local tourism operators in Chong Khneas say the lack of access since the accident has caused a sharp decline in tourist numbers
A ccording to the Ministry of Tourism, 1.7 million visitors arrived in Cambodia during the first 10 months of 2008, an 8.5 percent increase on the same period last year. South Koreans led the way, followed by tourists from Vietnam, Japan, the US and China.
TOURIST numbers to Chong Khneas village on the Tonle Sap lake have fallen by half since the collapse of a 25-metre bridge on Sunday, according to local tourism officials, who expressed concerns that continuing drops in visitor numbers could impact local livelihoods.
The bridge, built by the Sou Ching Investment Co Ltd, opened for use on December 3, but collapsed four days later, casting 18 Taiwanese tourists into the water.
No one was hurt, but since the mishap only about 700 people have arrived each day to see views of the lake and visit local communities, tour operators told the Post.
"A day before the bridge collapse 1,410 tourists went to visit the Tonle Sap, and now there are only about 700 or 800 tourists per day," said Roeun Thoeun, director of the Boat Tourism Association in Chong Khneas.
"[Tourists] do not come to visit the lake because they have been scared since the bridge collapsed, and there is no longer even a wooden [bridge] for them to cross when they get on or off the boats," Roeun Theoun added. "Now it is getting harder to earn money due to the number of tourists dropping."
Thong Pi, 43, a tourist boat operator, told the Post that in last few days he has earned almost nothing.
"Before the bridge collapsed, I took tourists on two or three routes per day, but for these few days since the accident I got customers on only one route," he said.
Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said that the accident would not affect overall tourism in the short term, but warned of future incidents.
NOW IT IS GETTING HARDER TO EARN MONEY DUE TO the NUMBER OF TOURISTS DROPPING.
"[The accident] teaches us that we have to learn, otherwise it could occur a second time," he said, calling for a task force to ensure the quality of all public construction works.
Roeun Thoeun said his association had also offered advice to Sou Ching to build sloping concrete embankments along the riverbank, but that the company ignored his advice.
"I started doing business as a tourism boat operator in 1996," he said. "Since then, tourists have not had any accident like this, even though at that time we had a wooden bridge."
Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin said he had asked Sou Ching to rebuild the bridge.
Ros Chhoudeth, the company's director general, said he did not yet know the reason of the collapse. "We are now rebuilding the bridge and it will be opened to the public soon," he said.