THE number of visitors to the Preah Vihear temple complex dropped by a third in the three months to the end of September compared with the same period last year, in what the local tourism chief said was a reaction to the ongoing dispute with Thailand over ownership of the land surrounding the World Heritage site.
Kong Vibol, director of Preah Vihear province’s Tourism Department, also blamed a general downturn in tourism arrivals, bad weather and lingering fears of influenza A(H1N1), or swine flu.
Only 12,214 people visited the temple complex over the last quarter, down 33.93 percent from 18,487 visitors over the same period a year earlier, he said. Foreign visitors were down 44.6 percent to 426, and domestic tourists dropped 34.04 percent to 11,788, Tourism Department figures showed.
Over the period, 47,682 people visited the province, including 40,857 from other parts of Cambodia, down 32.78 percent year-on-year, and 6,825 foreign visitors, down 89.17 percent.
Kong Vibol said he expected a recovery in the last quarter as the high season begins and the global economy continues to show signs of recovery. Dissipating border tensions would also help, he added.
Prime Minister Hun Sen announced in early September that Cambodian troops at the temple would be withdrawn following a bilateral agreement that effectively ended the 13-month standoff over the temple.
Om Phirom, chief of the temple’s Heritage Police, said at the time the drawdown in troops led to a surge in tourist numbers, with around 200 Cambodian and 50 foreign tourists visiting daily.