Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tourist numbers set to boom despite setbacks

Tourist numbers set to boom despite setbacks

Tourist numbers set to boom despite setbacks

CAMBODIAN tourism received a notable boost last year, despite kidnappings and

killings of foreign tourists, and looks set to continue to

burgeon.

Nearly 50 per cent more foreigners visited the Kingdom last year

than in 1993, and tourism authorities are pinning their hopes on a similar

increase this year.

Government officials and travel agents say they are

confident that tragedies such as January's killing of an American tourist in

Siem Reap will cause only temporary setbacks to the industry, and that much of

the country remains safe.

"Some information seems to outsiders to say

that Cambodia is a dark place every day, that every day there is killing," said

Thang Khon, Secretary of State for Tourism.

"But their countries also

have this kind of problem - robbery and killing - like in India, Sri Lanka,

America and France."

Ministry of Tourism plans for 1995 included

establishing Tourist Offices in all of Cambodia's 22 provinces to provide

information and advice to visitors, he said.

Currently there were Tourist

Offices in 16 provinces.

Siem Reap - which boasts the famous Angkor

temples - would continue to be a key destination for tourists but tourism

services in other areas such as Kompong Som, Kampot, Kep, Mondolkiri and

Ratanakiri were also to be improved.

Thang Khon said Cambodia hoped to

attract 1 million tourists a year by the year 2000.

But that would

require significant new development. Siem Reap, for example, only had 300 hotel

rooms while it needed about 3000.

The condition and safety of roads and

river-boats also needed to be improved, as tourists preferred to travel by land

or water if their security was guaranteed.

An international promotional

campaign to tout Cambodia as a tourist destination was underway. Travel

exhibitions had already been held in Japan, Singapore and Belgium and one would

soon be held in Paris.

The Ministry was hoping for a 50 per cent increase

in tourists this year, following last year's promising results, he

said.

There were a total of 176,617 visitor arrivals in Cambodia last

year - 49 per cent more than the previous year - according to Ministry of

Interior and Civil Aviation Authority figures.

There was no breakdown on

how many were tourists, businesspeople or permanent residents.

The

largest proportion of visitors - nearly 12 per cent - were Chinese, followed by

French, Thais and Americans.

January was the only month in which there

were fewer arrivals than in the same month of the previous year, despite the

deaths of six Westerners at the hands of the Khmer Rouge or bandits during

1994.

There has already been another such case this year, sending

shockwaves through the tourism industry because it occurred in the tourist Mecca

of Siem Reap.

Susan Hadden was killed and her husband seriously wounded

when their vehicle was ambushed while on way to Siem Reap's remote Banteay Srei

temple on Jan 15.

The Banteay Srei area, now closed to tourists, has long

been considered risky. Most travel agencies do not take foreign clients there,

though many tourists have traveled there safely in the past.

United

States Embassy spokesman Frank Huffman said the US was not advising American

tourists not to travel to Cambodia.

Some Americans might be deterred from

traveling to the country because of Mrs Hadden's death, but only for a short

time, he said.

Travel magazine Travel Trade Gazette quoted the managing

director of Diethelm Travel Cambodia, Lilli Saxer, as saying: "Siem Reap and

Phnom Penh are still considered safe."

Providing tourists traveled to

Siem Reap by plane and stayed within accepted safe areas, there was "absolutely

no problem."

Luzi Matzig, senior general manager of Diethelm Travel

Thailand, was quoted as saying that the main Angkor temple complex remained

safe.

"For the moment, [the death] might scare some people away for two

to three months, but people forget. Look at Florida, how many tourists get

killed, yet people still go there."

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