FUTURE UP IN THE AIR
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II described 1992 as her annus horribilis, a description many Siem Reap locals might find fitting to describe their city’s run during 2009.
Over the past year, the tourism business suffered the biggest dive since it began rising to giddy historical heights earlier this decade, and it seemed that, this year, traders were hit with everything.
The new threat of swine flu and the lingering threat of bird flu put a dent in figures, and the occupation by political protesters of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport stranded many passengers in Siem Reap, and deterred thousands from planning trips through the Thai hub to the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The local airline industry seemed to be falling apart in recent years, with Angkor Airways Corporation going under on May 9, 2008, due to financial issues. In November, Siem Reap Airways International was banned by the European Union Commission due to what they called inadequate compliance to safety standards. The airline ceased operations on December 1, 2008, and this impacted on tourist numbers at the beginning of this year.
Then, on October 25, Bangkok Airways was forced to shut down its service between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, causing further chaos, confusion and upheaval among visitors and industry workers.
All this, of course, occurred against the backdrop of the global financial crisis – one of the worst economic meltdowns in recent history.
Little wonder then that tourist numbers in Siem Reap are down. But the feeling now, as we enter a new year and a new decade, is that, surely, the only way is up…
Gentrification is set to shake up Siem Reap in 2010 with the city’s poor being forced out of the better parts of town, and the rich getting access to better real estate.
Breaking news last week revealed that more than 300 families living in apparently illegal lodgings along Siem Reap River are to be relocated well out of town early in the new year.
Last week, Siem Reap province Governor Sou Phirin, in announcing the relocation plans, also informed our reporter Rann Reuy that the reclaimed prime riverside sites will be developed to create a “Sacred City”. He gave no further details about the plan, but obviously the riverside region, which has become prime real estate, has the potential for classy redevelopment in line with what’s occurred along other parts of the river.