The number of international tourists in Cambodia increased by 24.4 per cent from 2.88 million in 2011 to 3.58 million in 2012, according to data from the Ministry of Tourism.
The most significant increases came from the Kingdom’s closest neighbours.
Laos nearly doubled in visitor numbers to over 250,000 and Thailand, which had declined year on year in 2011 by 21.7 per cent, increased in 2012 by 72.5 per cent to over 200,000 visitors.
Visitors from Vietnam account for the largest group coming to Cambodia, making up 21 per cent of total visitors in 2012.
Tith Chantha, director general of the Ministry of Tourism, said improved transport and rising incomes across ASEAN are increasing travel options for Cambodia and its neighbours.
“Vietnam is number one, but Laos and Thailand are also now increasing because of ease of travel and low visa [restrictions], so neighbouring countries can come any time,” he said.
“Cambodians also go to those countries. Many tourists go to Thailand and to Laos. This intra-regional travel is [happening] more and more.”
This represents a trend across ASEAN, with an increase of 37.5 per cent from 2011 to 2012 of over 1.51 million tourists.
Sinan Thourn, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said improved political relations and lighter travel restrictions inter-regionally have had a large impact.
“In the past before 2008, arrivals from Thailand were quite good, but then we had the problems along the borders and it decreased. But after the Pheu Thai win in the general election in Thailand, you have seen the numbers increasing,” he said.
“Due to the policies opening up ASEAN countries, all the ASEAN countries [enable] moving in and out more easily. This will be a key in increasing tourism from ASEAN countries,” he added.
Cambodia continues to be very popular with Chinese tourists, with nearly 334,000 visitors arriving in 2012, an increase of 35.1 per cent from the previous year.
While Europe made just up just17.1 per cent of total visitors in 2012, the rate of increase was up slightly from 10.9 per cent in 2011 to 12.6 per cent in 2012.
Chantha said, “Numbers of Europeans have increased, if you take Russia, for example, it increased around 50 per cent. France, Germany and UK have [also] increased, but the share [of European visitors] is down because the share of the Asia-Pacific is up.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel de Carteret at [email protected]