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Domestic tourists push up Siem Reap visitor count

Tourists inspect Bayon temple in Siem Reap’s archaeological park earlier this year.
Tourists inspect Bayon temple in Siem Reap’s archaeological park earlier this year. Heng Chivoan

Domestic tourists push up Siem Reap visitor count

Tourist visits to Siem Reap province increased slightly during the first half of the year as foreign tourists lined up to see the country’s pre-eminent tourism attraction, Angkor Wat, and Cambodians from across the country flocked to the province for a major national festival in April.

Total tourist arrivals to the province during the first six months of the year topped 3.1 million, a 3 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, Ngouv Sengkat, director of the province’s tourist department, said in a presentation on Tuesday.

Two-thirds of the visits were by domestic tourists, with some 2 million Cambodians from other parts of the country travelling to Siem Reap province between January and June, about 3.4 per cent more than during the same period a year ago.

Some 1.1 million foreign tourists – nearly two-thirds from ASEAN and Asia-Pacific countries – visited the province during this period, a 1 per cent year-on-year decrease.

Ho Vandy, secretary-general of Cambodia’s National Tourism Alliance, said Siem Reap was an increasingly popular destination for Cambodian holidaymakers as it has seen a marked improvement in accommodation options and amenities in recent years.

“Most Cambodian visitors like to spend time there on their holiday, and particularly enjoy the natural setting where they can relax with their family,” he said, adding that families typically spend just a few hours at Angkor Wat’s temples before turning to other activities.

Boosting the domestic tourist numbers was this year’s bigger and louder Angkor Sangkran festival, which brought over 1.3 million Cambodian visitors to Siem Reap, 30 per cent more than last year’s event. Local hotels and guesthouses reported full bookings during the four-day festival in April.

Tith Chantha, a spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism, said the slowdown in foreign tourist traffic was a minor issue. He said the number of foreign tourists visiting Siem Reap province typically slows during the first semester, though overall arrivals were up 2.6 per cent this year.

“It’s normal in the first semester that the amount of tourists is always a bit low, because it is the rainy season,” he said.

“But we expect in the next half of the year the number of foreign tourists will increase as long as we promote our tourism sector through advertising, especially as we just received the World’s Best Tourist Destination award [from the European Council on Tourism and Trade].”

Chantha doubted a recently announced hike in ticket prices to Angkor Wat Archaeological Park would have any impact on tourism numbers in the coming period.

He said the revised prices, which nearly double the cost of single-day entry for foreigners to $37, would make the price of admission comparable with other world-class tourist sites when they come into effect in February 2017.

“The new ticket price, which is based on market value, will not have any impact on international tourist arrivals,” he stated. “It is a fair price compared to other tourist sites overseas, and it is based on updating the market value of the ticket, as the price had not changed in almost 20 years.”

Ticket sales to Angkor Wat during the first six months of the year topped $31 million, a 1.7 per cent year-on-year increase, while the number of foreign visitors increased 0.7 per cent year-on-year during the period to about 1.1 million, according to the Angkor Institute.

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