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Govt expects boost in domestic tourism

Govt expects boost in domestic tourism

New Year bookings strong, say provinces, as ministry expects growth in domestic travellers

DOMESTIC tourism could increase by as much as 15 percent in 2009 as more Cambodian tourists shun international destinations in favour of local ones, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said at a press conference last week.

Thong Khon said he had based his prediction on reports from provincial tourism departments.

He attributed the expected trend to political unrest in Thailand as well as the prospect of further violence with Thai troops near Preah Vihear temple.

Thailand and Vietnam are the two most popular international destinations for Cambodian tourists, he said.

He also said the economic downturn had made relatively cheap domestic trips more attractive than trips abroad.

Cambodia weathers crisis

He said Cambodians were generally less affected by the downturn than people in other countries, adding that many were still looking to travel, particularly during holidays such as this week's Khmer New Year.

"Our people still have money in their hands because they are not affected by stock markets like people in other countries," he said. "So they continue to go on holiday."

Thong Khon's prediction follows a Ministry of Tourism report released in February that found that the number of Cambodians travelling abroad fell by 21 percent last year, from 995,763 in 2007 to 785,896 in 2008.

Our people still have money ... because they are not affected by stock markets.

New Year rush

Thong Khon said he expected Khmer New Year to be a boon to domestic tourism, citing anecdotal reports that many guesthouses and hotels in Sihanoukville, Kep and Koh Kong were fully booked.

He said roughly 70 percent of Phnom Penh residents would visit their home provinces for the holiday.

"It is good for provincial economies because they [the urban population] bring money from the city to spend in all places and to make the rural economy work."

Som Chenda, director of Preah Sihanouk's tourism department, said his office plans to throw a "special event" at Occheuteal Beach to celebrate Khmer New Year and to "promote our Kingdom of Wonder to attract more tourists".

The event, to be held Wednesday, will include a concert, beach sports and popular Khmer New Year games, he said.

"With this event, we expect more than 100,000 tourists to visit the province during the Khmer New Year, and they will continue to come in the future," he said. "People are not bored with nature."

Koy Sang, director of the tourism department in Siem Reap province, said he expected about 210,000 tourists to visit Kulen Mountain during Khmer New Year, in part because his office had organised events to welcome tourists.

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