Government statistics show drop-off in arrivals by air persisted, despite what was otherwise a strong Q3 for tourism after a disappointing start to this year
I dare to say we will get the same number of tourists as last year.
CAMBODIA’S key tourism sector showed further signs of recovery in September, according to newly released Ministry of Tourism data, although all-important air arrivals remained down on last year.
Total arrivals in the Kingdom hit 151,937 in September, the figures showed, up 4.68 percent on the same period last year and beating average annualised growth in the first eight months of the year at 1.68 percent.
However, air arrivals, which bring in longer term, long-haul passengers that traditionally spend more, remained well down from last year. In September, 72,671 air passengers flew into Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports, down from 82,764 during the same month last year, a drop of 12.5 percent.
Though more passengers arrived by air in the first eight months of last year than in the first nine months of this year, September’s fall was better than the 13.03 percent decline recorded on average over the first eight months, suggesting things are picking up after a dismal first three months of the year.
Also, visitors to Siem Reap – Cambodia’s main tourism destination – fell 8.45 percent in the first nine months on last year, while 12.18 percent more visitors went to Phnom Penh over the same period.
“I dare to say we will get the same number of tourists as last year.… I have seen recently that package tours are getting booked up,” said Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the private-sector tourism working group and president of World Express Travel and Tours.
Latest figures showed that the third quarter was the best of the year with a 8.39 percent rise in total arrivals compared to growth of 2.25 percent in the second quarter and a contraction of 3.4 percent in the first.
Nevertheless, the figures show that although there is an increase in arrivals overall, a reverse on the slide at the beginning of the year, this is almost all due to the huge increase in land arrivals, particularly from Vietnam. In the first nine months, 42.82 percent more Vietnamese visited the Kingdom compared to the same period last year. Arrivals from Laos were up 92 percent.
Luu Meng, president of the Cambodia Hotel Association, said Tuesday that regional tourists were more sensitive to the price of accommodation, and that visitors this year were staying a shorter time in the Kingdom.
There were 40 percent more day arrivals over the same period in 2008, the figures showed.
“Despite the increase [in arrivals], we see that most tourists are from the region that mostly get here by land rather than air,” said Ho Vandy.
Kong Sophearek, director of the Statistics and Tourism Information Department at the Ministry of Tourism, attributed the rise in regional visitors to government initiatives launched this year designed to curb the impact of the tourism slump as the economic crisis reduced demand for global travel.
Cross-border transport agreements that have increased traffic from Vietnam and Laos, as well as a drive to add border crossings with both countries, had produced benefits, he said.
He predicted overall growth in arrivals of between 2 and 3 percent for 2009, citing the July launch of the new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air as another factor that would help bring in foreign tourists.
Nicolas Deviller, CEO of Societe Concessionaire de l'Aeroports (SCA), operator of the Kingdom’s two international airports, predicted at the end of last month a 2 percent rise in aircraft movements next year, with new routes and larger planes on some existing routes as the domestic travel sector gears up for the coming high season.
Asiana Airlines, which stopped flying between Siem Reap and Incheon in South Korea at the end of September due to falling demand, is scheduled to resume four weekly flights on November 17, according to published schedules.
Koh Kong recommended
Meanwhile, Lonely Planet, the world’s largest seller of travel guides, has listed Koh Kong province among its top-ten regions for 2010 alongside Goa in India and Bali, the Indonesian resort island, in its Best In Travel 2010, published Monday.
A number of foreign and local investors, including the Royal Group, are building resorts and eco-tourism developments on the provinces many islands and in the Cardamom Mountains although almost none are scheduled for completion before the end of next year.