TOURIST arrivals in Cambodia increased by about 12 percent in the first six months of this year, according to Ministry of Tourism statistics released yesterday.
In the first half of 2010, Cambodia received a total of 1,221,156 foreign tourists, up from 1,086,518 tourists in the same period of 2009, a report said.
Tourists from Asia accounted for a large number of visitors, with arrivals from neighbouring Vietnam taking the top spot.
Vietnamese visitors reached 208,667 in the first half of this year, up a massive 46 percent on the first six months of last year.
South Korea stood at number two, with 136,498, up around 35 percent annually. Japan was third with 71,107 tourists, a modest rise of about 7 percent.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon said yesterday that the growth in tourism was due in part to a gradual recovery of the global economy and an easing of vehicle restrictions at Cambodia’s border frontiers – which has led traffic at some checkpoints to soar by up to two-thirds.
“We hope the number will continue to grow in the second half of this year,” he said.
If growth continues at the pace of the first six months, it will surpass government estimates.
The Ministry of Tourism has forecast that tourist numbers for the whole of 2010 would rise around 10 percent.
Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said yesterday that visa-exception agreements and an increase in flights would be an important factor in attracting more tourists to the Kingdom in coming months.
He said that airlines such as Bangkok Airways and Air Asia would increase their flights from October to December, the high tourist season.
“I think that Cambodia could receive the growth in tourism that the ministry has forecast due to better infrastructure [being introduced] day to day,” he said.
The statistics showed that in the first six months, tourist arrivals by air rose an estimated 14 percent to 632,373, while arrivals by road and water rose around 13 percent to 522,634.
Thong Khon said that the ministry planned to arrange more direct flights to countries in the region to attract visitors.
Last week, national airline Cambodia Angkor Air announced plans to buy two new planes in order to open routes to Japan, China and South Korea.
According to a price list compiled by French manufacturer Airbus SAS, the aircraft that CAA planned to purchase cost about US$95.5 million each.