M ORE visitors are flocking to Cambodia despite some United Kingdom tourist companies refusing to sell the Cambodian destination.
By October, with three months still to be counted, tourism numbers were up 46 percent on last year - 139,921 compared to 96,020.
"Five daily flights to Angkor Wat are always full of tourists," said Thong Khon, The Secretary of State for Tourism, in an interview with the Post on Dec 27.
He said the number of tourists has increased from day to day, especially from United States, Japan, France, Australia and China.
This was despite some major British tourism companies having stopped marketing Cambodia in the wake of the recent hostage deaths and continuing security concerns.
The British Government, in a general notice on Nov 1, advised its citizens not to travel to Cambodia.
In a Travel Trade Gazette report published early this month, UK operators reported many cancellations of holidays since late October.
"We've stopped selling Cambodia," Ms Sarah Erskine, Kuoni UK's product manager, was quoted saying: "There has been no activity since the Foreign Office advisory. We haven't dropped it but obviously if this happens again and again, we will. Security is paramount to us."
Chris May, director of Premier Holidays, said he would not comment if Cambodia would be featured in Premier's 1996 brochure. Premier dedicated a lot of space to Cambodia in the 1995 brochure but "we've taken Cambodia off sale indefinitely," he said.
Cambodia's loss was Vietnam's gain, he said.
"We have to act on the Foreign Office advice. You cannot ignore it even though information from our local agents says it's safe to go to Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat," said Silverbird managing director Jerry Quinn.
The report said that only one travel agent, Asia World Travel, was still selling Cambodia.
Asia World Travel chief executive David Pettigrew said provided tourists only visit Phnom Penh and fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia was safe. "Going overland anywhere is a no-no".
"We explain to consumers and at the end of it, we ask them to sign a waiver saying that we've advised them. This is just to cover ourselves," Mr Pettigrew said.
He added: "We've had cancellations, I have to say. It's not a big volume destination, so the cancellation were few. I think panic got into it."
"Cambodia was doing quite well. It was convenient then to tag onto Vietnam," he said.
When asked about the British response, Thong Khon said: "I cannot give any comments. It depends on the other governments who are still sending their tourists to Cambodia because they think there is no problem with security."
He said he hoped those British companies quoted would send their tourists to Cambodia like other countries in the near future.
The ministry had recently announced revised entry visa and exit fee for tourists to Cambodia - altogether $3 cheaper than at present.