THE Ministry of Tourism said it will rely on domestic tourism to ensure a 2 percent predicted increase in tourist numbers for 2009, as it reported a drop in foreign tourists to Cambodia.
Kong Sophearak, director of the ministry's statistics department, told the Post Tuesday that he expects 2 million foreign tourists this year generating revenue of US$1.5 billion.
Last year 2.12 million foreigners visited Cambodia, he said, but the number of foreign visitors has fallen 2.2 percent in the first five months to 946,000. "But we can see the number of domestic tourists is four or fivefold larger than the number of foreign tourists," he said.
Ministry figures showed that 2.85 million Cambodians travelled domestically in the first five months, a rise of 5.3 percent on 2008 compared with 6.7 million for the whole of 2008.
"Local travellers are the key to generating revenue in tourism these days," he said. "We are like China, which relies on its own people to spend money."
Kong Sophearak blamed the drop in foreign tourists on the global economic crisis, the border dispute with Thailand and political upheaval in Bangkok.
Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Cambodians don't have the spare cash to venture abroad, and the spread of swine flu has made them keener to stay in the Kingdom.
Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said his organisation plans to distribute a guide book letting domestic travellers know about exciting local destinations and to encourage them to buy domestic goods.