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New Year sees tourism boost

Tourists walk through the world-famous Angkor Archaeological Park
Tourists walk through the world-famous Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province earlier this month. Vireak Mai

New Year sees tourism boost

Cambodia’s beaches and temples saw an increase in local and foreign tourists during the three-day Lunar New Year celebrations, according to figures released by provincial officials.

Siem Reap, home to the world-renowned Angkor Archaeological Park and a major tourist destination, received around 69,200 visitors, an increase of 25 per cent compared to the same period last year, according to Chheuy Chhorn, deputy director of Siem Reap’s Tourism Department.

Of the tourists visiting the famous temples of Siem Reap, foreign visitors accounted for more than 27,200, an increase of 9 per cent compared to last year. Chhorn said Chinese tourists made up more than 60 per cent of these tourists, followed by Vietnamese and then Western visitors.

“Hotels and restaurants were full during the holidays. Most tourists visited Angkor Wat Temple, the West Baray reservoir and Chong Kneas, a floating village on the Tonle Sap,” he said.

Siem Reap International Airport saw more than 19,000 passengers arrive on direct flights and up to 3,000 passengers from Phnom Penh, during the February 19 to 21 period, with most other tourists travelling by road.

Meanwhile, Sihanoukville province saw a visitor increase of 27 per cent, as compared to the same time in 2014. The southern province had 63,000 visitors, of which 6,900 were foreign tourists and more than 56,000 were Cambodian, according to Nou Sophal, the director of Sihanoukville’s Tourism Department.

Foreign tourists increased 12 per cent, where as Cambodian tourists to the beach destination increased by 27 per cent, a rise, Sophal said, that was due to the increasing standard of living among Cambodians.

“The rise in local visitors during the holidays means their living standard is getting better. It means the country’s economy is good. Good infrastructure, linking Sihanoukville to other coastal provinces, is also driving the growth,” he added.

The popular Oucheuteal beach and Koh Rong island received the most visitors during the three-day holiday.

Kampot province did better than Sihanoukville this year, with 76,360 visitors, an increase of 14 per cent as compared to last year. Of these, local visitors accounted for 71,760, up 11 per cent, while foreign tourists, largely Vietnamese, increased 108 per cent to 4,600, according to Soy Sinol, director of Kampot’s Tourism Department.

“Fresh seafood, Bokor Mountain and the Teuk Chou waterfall were the main attractions of the province. The improved road and infrastructure, connecting Phnom Penh to the province, also encouraged tourists to visit Kampot,” said Sinol.

Sinol said increased improvements to infrastructure was needed to keep up with the rising visitor numbers, particularly with the construction of an international pier to be completed by 2019.

“Kampot will be able to attract tourists from everywhere in the country and also international tourists traveling by sea,” he said.

Currently, Kampot has more than 2000 rooms to accommodate guests.

Sinal said that increased hotel investment was needed as they near the completion of the international pier.

Koh Kong province, near the Thai border, is emerging as a popular coastal destination, welcoming more than 8,500 visitors, up 7.5 per cent, according to Bun Beav, director of Koh Kong’s Tourism Department.

Local tourists to the province were 6750, up 13 per cent, while foreign tourists increased by 20 per cent, reaching 2,780.

“The [Sea] festival has helped promote Koh Kong to tourists. Currently, the province has four communities of eco-based tourism and the beach,” he said.

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