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Increase in visitors to Preah Vihear

Increase in visitors to Preah Vihear

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Cambodian Buddhist monks at the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

Foreign visitors to the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, on the Cambodian-Thai border, rose almost 78 per cent between January and October compared with the same period last year, despite a deadly border dispute that drew internat-ional attention in February.

About 2,140 foreign nationals visited the 1,000-year-old temple during the first nine months of the year, up from 1,206 in during the same period in 2010, according to data from the Preah Vihear Provincial Department of Tourism.

The border dispute—in which conflict between the Thai and Cambodian militaries erupted in and around the World Heritage site—was little more than a bump in the tourist development of the region, according to Preah Vihear tourism director  Kong Vibol.

“There were lots of foreign tourists visiting the temple before the clashes and after the International Court of Justice ordered that the area be a demilitarised zone,” he said.

The court imposed the demilitar-ised zone in July, the Post has previously reported.

The increase had come despite the absence of tour agencies operating at the temple, Kong Vibol said.

Foreign delegations that came to monitor the border situation around the temple had contributed to the higher numbers, he added.

Local tourist numbers fell more than 32 per cent at the temple, tour data showed.

Preah Vihear province experienced a drop of more than five per cent in local tourist numbers, but Kong Vibol said that might improve as flood- waters in many areas receded.

Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of  Travel Agents, said that among tourist destinations in Preah Vihear province, the temple was the only qualified attract-ion and most hotels and restaurants were not up to standard.

“We are trying to promote tourism there, but most tourists who visit Cambodia for the first time would prefer visiting the Angkor Wat temple,”  Ang Kim Eang said.

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