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Tourist numbers yet to recover from SARS

Tourist numbers yet to recover from SARS

The number of foreign tourists visiting Cambodia this year has remained low compared

with the same period last year. The country's tourism industry has yet to fully recover

from the effects of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, tourism

officials say.

In the first ten months of 2003, Cambodia attracted 524,386 visitors, down about

14 percent from the same period in 2002, according to reports by the Ministry of

Tourism (MoT).

Chhim Narith, under secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said that to

increase the number of foreign tourists, Cambodia needs security, recreational areas

and marketing to attract foreign visitors.

"We still lack a lot of points in the tourism infrastructure and marketing field,"

Narith said. "You cannot say that because we are poor we can't develop in the

tourism arena. We should think that our country has no pollution and smoke-that makes

it easy to improve."

Tourist numbers began to increase slightly toward the end of this year with the holiday

season. Narith thinks the rapid decline in SARS cases, as well as political stability

following the election, will ease tourists' concerns and boost visitor numbers.

Veng Sereyvuth, Minister of Tourism, is optimistic that tourism numbers will match

last year. He predicted 800,000 tourists will have arrived by the end of the year.

"I don't think the national budget from tourism will be less than the 2002 budget

of around $500 million," he said. "Cambodia also has a lot more places

and shops for foreigners to visit and to buy."

He said he has continued to make an effort to attract foreign visitors, especially

Japanese tourists, by organizing ceremonies, enlarging Phnom Penh International Airport

runway and creating more places for sight-seeing and entertainment.

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