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Tourism Industry Reels from Violence

Tourism Industry Reels from Violence

Travel agents and many hoteliers said they fear the Khmer Rouge's bloody attack in

Siem Reap may have sounded the death knell for the tourism trade in Cambodia this

year.

"It's going to be purely negative," Diethelm Travel's Lilli Saxer said

of the fighting around the airport and provincial capital, which serves as the staging

point for tours to the fabled Angkor Wat temple complex.

One Austrian tourist was wounded by gunfire as he tried to reach the airport and

dozens of others took shelter with U.N. peacekeepers in underground bunkers during

the day-long rampage. At one point, Khmer soldiers advanced within 500 meters of

the landmark Grand Hotel before moving onto other areas in the town.

Before the Siem Reap attack, tour operators had already been wounded by an upsurge

of political violence including the execution of a Japanese U.N. volunteer in early

April that had tourists scrambling to cancel trips to Cambodia.

"We dont really have much work to do now," said Nongnuj Pengsupaya, manager

of East West's Phnom Penh office.

"In January and February we had lots of tourists but in April we had only 11

people. For May we had two bookings but they may cancel," she said.

Pisanu Niemjantr, executive assistant manager of the Phnom Penh Floating Hotel said

access to Angkor Wat was vital to the survival of the tourism industry in Cambodia.

"Tourism in Cambodia means Siem Reap, it means Angkor Wat," he said.

Pisanu said occupancy rates at his hotel had fallen 20 percent since February.

"That is not just tourists but businessmen as well," he said.

"I think it will be another year before the tourists come back."

Particularly hard hit by the increasing violence have been tour agents serving the

lucrative Japanese market which has almost completely dried up.

"The Japanese are always afraid and even before the killing number of Japanese

had started to drop," Nongnujsaid.

Guy Lucas, general manager of the Hotel Sofitel Cambodiana said that despite the

current difficulties he was confident in the long term future of the travel and trade

industry in Cambodia.

"Too many people want peace and life to go on to allow the situation to worsen

after the elections," he said.

"Peace is the only way and Angkor Wat represents only 12 per cent of the archeological

richness of Cambodia, not to count the untouched nature as well as an exceptional

coast on the Gulf of Siam," he said.

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