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Temple tourism enjoys October recovery: govt

Temple tourism enjoys October recovery: govt

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Domestic tourists take a closer look at Preah Vihear Temple at the end of September. The disputed site recorded a nearly fourfold rise in arrivals last month, according to official data.

Latest figures show Siem Reap – home of Angkor Wat – and Preah Vihear saw higher tourism numbers despite tensions

TOURIST numbers to Cambodia’s two main temple destinations – Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear – grew last month, figures showed, a further sign that the sector was in recovery despite ongoing tensions with Thailand, officials said.

Total tourists to the Kingdom’s primary attraction Siem Reap climbed 0.7 percent in October year on year, Chheuy Chhorn, deputy director of Siem Reap’s Tourism Department, said Thursday, as a 2 percent drop in international arrivals to the province was offset by a 3 percent rise in domestic visitors. Overall numbers climbed to 174,814 visitors last month from 173,515 in October 2008.

“Tourists during this month were a good sign for the sector,” said Chheuy Chhorn, adding that since the start of this month – the start of the high season – numbers had again noticeably improved.

He said it remained unclear whether Siem Reap tourism would be able to match 2008, but given the figures for the first 10 months, it seemed unlikely – for the year up to the end of October numbers were down 36.88 percent following a dismal beginning to 2009.

Preah Vihear received 5,422 visitors last month, a huge increase on the 1,374 that made the trip to the temple site in October 2008, when a cross-border skirmish prompted a downturn in tourist numbers.

“Tourists increased during last month from the … year before due to a previous problem with Thailand that led to the closing of the border gate,” Kong Vibol, director of the Preah Vihear Province Tourism Department, said Thursday. “But tourism has hugely increased this year because we have a good road to the temple – we’re not relying on Thailand.”

Still, overall official figures showed tourism numbers to Preah Vihear are down substantially on 2008. In the first 10 months of this year 56.63 fewer tourists visited the temple, from 121,894 over the same period last year down to 52,861.

“We, like other tourist destinations in our country, were affected by the global economic crisis,” said Kong Vibol. “However, in my province, especially at Preah Vihear temple, we have seen a more pronounced negative impact as we face the border confrontation with neighbouring Thailand.”

The recent troubles with Thailand had not affected tourism at Preah Vihear, he added.

Seaside tourism mixed
Meanwhile, Cambodia’s two leading seaside resorts enjoyed mixed fortunes last month as Kampot province saw an increase in foreign visitors but a slide overall, and Sihanoukville recorded a large overall rise.

Mok Sekano, deputy director of Kampot Province Tourism Department, said Thursday that foreign tourist numbers climbed more than 35 percent last month year on year to 484 but domestic visitors plummeted 24 percent to 8,383.

He attributed the spike in foreign visitors to relaxed opening procedures for Bokor Mountain, which is being redeveloped, and said flood damage to a cable bridge at Teuk Chhou district had likely caused the fall in domestic tourists.

Overall for the first 10 months numbers to Kampot province slid 36.12 percent year on year.
Preah Sihanouk province had seen numbers fall just 4.22 percent over the same period, according to official figures.

In October, 16,513 tourists visited the province, up nearly 9 percent compared to the same month last year, an increase that came mainly from domestic visitors, whose numbers climbed from 8,967 in October 2008 to 10,578 last month.

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