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International visitor shortage hitting Siem Reap tourist industry hard

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Insiders have said that the number of foreign visitors to Siem Reap, the Kingdom’s main cultural destination, continue to drop and tourist businesses are struggling to survive. POST PIX

International visitor shortage hitting Siem Reap tourist industry hard

Businesses in Siem Reap town’s tourism industry are struggling to survive as the number of foreign visitors to the Kingdom’s main cultural destination continues to drop, insiders have said.

Data from the Ministry of Tourism shows that foreign arrivals to Siem Reap province reached 1.55 million during the first eight months of this year, an 11 per cent decrease compared to the same period last year.

Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association president Khieu Thy told The Post on Sunday that international visitors to the province this year may decline between 15 and 20 per cent compared to last year.

He said the trend worries business owners – many of whom face losses and potential closure. “Now, the tour guide business is too quiet here in Siem Reap.”

He claimed that hot weather, social disorder and government policies that “favour Chinese visitors” are the main reasons behind the decline.

The ministry’s data show that during the first eight months of this year, the Kingdom welcomed 4.36 million foreign tourists. Of those, 1.7 million were Chinese – a 33 per cent year-on-year increase.

An employee at Lucky Angkor Hotel and Spa in Siem Reap town’s Slakram commune, who asked not to be named, told The Post that hotel occupancy has seen a 30 to 40 per cent decline from last year.

“This year, there are not many guests and the hotel only receives 20 bookings per night even though prices remain unchanged from last year,” she said, adding that the hotel has a total of 115 rooms.

Chea Sopheak, who sells souvenirs on Pub Street in Siem Reap town’s Svay Dangkum commune, said business is too quiet now and she can barely make ends meet.

“Before there were many people – both sellers and visitors – at the night market here, but now it is drying up, with many stores closing,” she said.

Sopheak said if the situation persists, she will quit and find another way to make a living.

Chan Sotheary, a money exchange agent with a shop near Angkor Hospital for Children in the same commune, echoed Sopheak’s concerns.

“You could say that business now is too quiet. It’s pretty much the same everywhere in town,” he said, adding that previously, he would have 50 customers daily, but that number had dwindled to less than 10.

However, the owner of a spa near the Angkor National Museum said it is business as usual for him, with most of his clients being locals.

“The impact on my business has been relatively small as most of our guests are locals and I don’t depend on foreign tourists,” he said.

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