CAMBODIAN tourism received a notable boost last year, despite kidnappings and
killings of foreign tourists, and looks set to continue to
Nearly 50 per cent more foreigners visited the Kingdom last year
than in 1993, and tourism authorities are pinning their hopes on a similar
increase this year.
Government officials and travel agents say they are
confident that tragedies such as January's killing of an American tourist in
Siem Reap will cause only temporary setbacks to the industry, and that much of
the country remains safe.
"Some information seems to outsiders to say
that Cambodia is a dark place every day, that every day there is killing," said
Thang Khon, Secretary of State for Tourism.
"But their countries also
have this kind of problem - robbery and killing - like in India, Sri Lanka,
America and France."
Ministry of Tourism plans for 1995 included
establishing Tourist Offices in all of Cambodia's 22 provinces to provide
information and advice to visitors, he said.
Currently there were Tourist
Offices in 16 provinces.
Siem Reap - which boasts the famous Angkor
temples - would continue to be a key destination for tourists but tourism
services in other areas such as Kompong Som, Kampot, Kep, Mondolkiri and
Ratanakiri were also to be improved.
Thang Khon said Cambodia hoped to
attract 1 million tourists a year by the year 2000.
But that would
require significant new development. Siem Reap, for example, only had 300 hotel
rooms while it needed about 3000.
The condition and safety of roads and
river-boats also needed to be improved, as tourists preferred to travel by land
or water if their security was guaranteed.
An international promotional
campaign to tout Cambodia as a tourist destination was underway. Travel
exhibitions had already been held in Japan, Singapore and Belgium and one would
soon be held in Paris.
The Ministry was hoping for a 50 per cent increase
in tourists this year, following last year's promising results, he
There were a total of 176,617 visitor arrivals in Cambodia last
year - 49 per cent more than the previous year - according to Ministry of
Interior and Civil Aviation Authority figures.
There was no breakdown on
how many were tourists, businesspeople or permanent residents.
largest proportion of visitors - nearly 12 per cent - were Chinese, followed by
French, Thais and Americans.
January was the only month in which there
were fewer arrivals than in the same month of the previous year, despite the
deaths of six Westerners at the hands of the Khmer Rouge or bandits during
There has already been another such case this year, sending
shockwaves through the tourism industry because it occurred in the tourist Mecca
of Siem Reap.
Susan Hadden was killed and her husband seriously wounded
when their vehicle was ambushed while on way to Siem Reap's remote Banteay Srei
temple on Jan 15.
The Banteay Srei area, now closed to tourists, has long
been considered risky. Most travel agencies do not take foreign clients there,
though many tourists have traveled there safely in the past.
States Embassy spokesman Frank Huffman said the US was not advising American
tourists not to travel to Cambodia.
Some Americans might be deterred from
traveling to the country because of Mrs Hadden's death, but only for a short
time, he said.
Travel magazine Travel Trade Gazette quoted the managing
director of Diethelm Travel Cambodia, Lilli Saxer, as saying: "Siem Reap and
Phnom Penh are still considered safe."
Providing tourists traveled to
Siem Reap by plane and stayed within accepted safe areas, there was "absolutely
Luzi Matzig, senior general manager of Diethelm Travel
Thailand, was quoted as saying that the main Angkor temple complex remained
"For the moment, [the death] might scare some people away for two
to three months, but people forget. Look at Florida, how many tourists get
killed, yet people still go there."