Cambodia welcomed around 2.3 million people for the first half of this year, up 4.6 per cent compared to the same period last year, amid concerns from the tourism minister that the Kingdom may not reach its target of 5 million arrivals for 2015.
Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Vietnamese, Chinese and South Korean tourists topped the list of arrivals into the country, but that there was a slowdown from South Korea and Russia.
“The reason for the slowdown of tourists from South Korea is the outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in May, while economic problems are causing Russian tourist numbers to drop,” Khon said.
While Khon acknowledged that overall tourist arrivals have been slower than expected, he was hopeful that it would pick up in the second half of the year.
“I hope in the end of this year we will achieve our target as we planned to reach 5 million tourists in 2015, if not, it will be more or less close to our prediction,” he added.
Early estimates for July showed the number of tourist growing, with a slight dip in August numbers so far, Khon said.
Ang Kim Eang, president of Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said that while growth during the first semester was slow, it didn’t seem to be picking up during the second semester as well.
Eang said reaching the 5 million target will be difficult this year but can be bolstered next year after the ASEAN Economic Community integration.
“The number of tourists will increase when the ASEAN Economic Community is created by the end of this year, allowing more people to travel,” Eang said.
Based on ministry figures, in 2013 there were 4.2 million visitors in Cambodia, with the number climbing to 4.5 millions in 2014.
Given this growth trajectory, the Ministry of Tourism targeted 5 million people for 2015.
While Phnom Penh saw a sizeable jump in tourist arrivals, 1.19 million tourists for the first semester, Siem Reap and the surrounding Angkor temples recorded a 10 per cent dip in tourists, falling to 1.10 million.
The coastal areas, which include Sihanoukville and Kep, saw 373,000 tourists as private operators have been working to promote the beaches of Cambodia.
Last year, Cambodia earned close to $3 billion in state revenues from the tourism sector, making it one of the major contributors to the economy.