Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tourists to Siem Reap down 0.6pc in first half

Tourists to Siem Reap down 0.6pc in first half

Tourists to Siem Reap down 0.6pc in first half

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Tourists gather at one of the temples outside of Siem Reap. BLOOMBERG

Total tourism declines slightly from 2008 as domestic travellers replace foreigners flocking to visit Angkorian historical sites

SIEM Reap's tourism department said the overall number of tourists visiting the province dropped slightly in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year.

The department said the number of local tourists rose 11 percent to 692,000, which almost offset the 13-percent decline in foreign visitors.

Than Chhayvanna, deputy administrator of the provincial tourism department, told the Post that total numbers dipped 0.6 percent to 1.195 million. Around 503,000 were foreign tourists, down from 578,000.

She blamed the decline in part on the global economic crisis.

"The other factor was political unrest in Thailand, but the key issue now is swine flu," Than Chhayvanna said. "However ... local tourists increased a lot, which means that the tourism industry in my province is still good."

Kong Sophearak, director of the Ministry of Tourism's statistics department, said the key to boosting tourism revenue is to emulate China and focus more on domestic tourism.

He said foreign tourists spent US$1.6 billion in 2008, which equates to $118 per foreign tourist per day. The ministry does not calculate revenue from local tourists, he said, but it is certainly substantially lower.

Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the tourism working group, a government-private sector initiative, said the difference in revenue between the two categories explains why boosting local tourist numbers will not solve the problem entirely. But he said the government is trying hard to make Cambodia the most attractive destination in Asia.

"We have a variety of tourism destinations to entice tourists - such as the white sand beaches on the coast, eco-tourism, and soon a new amusement park [on Bokor mountain]," he said.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon told the Post on Thursday that the government is working to improve services and said one focus is to open new border crossings.

"We are trying to make things more convenient ... which is a key issue," he said. "Also we are looking to get rid of other unnecessary barriers and introduce visa exemptions."

Thong Khon said safety and cutting prices for tourism products remain ongoing priorities.

Statistics from the ministry show that 2.85 million Cambodians travelled as tourists inside the Kingdom in the first five months of this year, up 5.3 percent on the same period in 2008. The total number of Cambodian tourists was 6.7 million for 2008.

About 2.12 million foreign nationals visited the Kingdom last year, with the number of foreign visitors down 2.2 percent in the first five months to 946,000.

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