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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tourist arrivals keep rising

Tourist arrivals keep rising

Warnings from the Australian and US governments on traveling within Southeast Asia

have had little impact on the number of tourists coming to Cambodia, said Minister

of Tourism Veng Sereyvuth.

His ministry is expecting year-end figures will show an increase of 25 percent on

the number of arrivals recorded last year. Statistics from the Cambodia Development

Review (CDR) show that 390,000 people came to the country in the first six months

of this year.

"After September 11 we continued our business," said Sereyvuth. "It

was shaky, but now it is back to normal and we are continuing our growth. [The Bali

bombing] affected the region, and on top of these you have the advisories - they

are worse than the bomb itself."

Other regional tourist destinations including Malaysia and Indonesia have seen a

decline in tourist arrivals following the Bali bombings and updated travel advisories.

But even before Bali, Cambodia was outpacing the region in tourist growth.

In the first six months of 2002, tourist arrivals to the region rose by 15 percent,

but the numbers coming to Cambodia were up 20 percent.

Sereyvuth said he was confident the government was on target to attract one million

tourists a year before 2005. He said his ministry has been trying to fireproof the

industry by developing new and potentially enormous markets in India and China.

In 2001 6.5 million Indians traveled overseas, up from 4.2 million in 2000. The World

Tourism Organization forecasts that by 2020 India will account for 50 million outbound

tourists, while Chinese tourists will increase from the current 12 million, to 100

million by 2020.

But despite the large number of arrivals, the amount of direct revenue earned by

government from the sector was relatively low. The CDR survey showed that just $2.2

million - less than $6 per tourist - went to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

That did not include visa fees, the government share of Angkor Wat tickets, or departure

tax.

Sereyvuth said he was optimistic that the effect of the Bali bombing would not hurt

Cambodia.

"We have continued our growth, we've retained people's confidence," he

said. "In a very short time these advisories become redundant, because people

get information from other sources, [and] they get information from us. In the future

I think countries will consult with us more before issuing these warnings."

The CDR figures showed that 255,000 tourists flew here, and an-other 134,000 came

via road and waterways. Two-thirds of visitors coming by air entered the country

through Phnom Penh.

Cambodia is set to be the focus of the ASEAN tourism industry next year with the

January 20-28 ASEAN Tourism Forum to be held in the capital. Between 1,600 and 2,000

delegates will attend the meeting at which "Visit Cambodia Year 2003" will

be launched.

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