Thai unrest hits Cambodia tourism

Cambodia's tourism industry, which for years has seen double-digit growth, is now showing signs of slowing down as Thai visitors to the kingdom decline, according to the latest government data.

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The latest half-yearly report from the Tourism Ministry shows arrivals totalled 2.2 million between January and June this year, up 5% from the same period last year, the Phnom Penh Post reported on Wednesday.

But the marginal rise bucks a year-on-year trend of increases ranging between 13 and 26% as seen at the halfway point of every year from 2010 to 2013.

Kong Sophearak, director of the ministry’s statistics department, said the dampened growth has primarily stemmed from a decline in overland arrivals from Thailand over the past six months.

“Since the end of the global financial crisis, Cambodia has seen consistent double-digit increases in arrivals. But so far this year, that figure has fallen due to less people arriving from Thailand through the border gates,” the Phnom Penh Post quoted him as saying.

According to Mr Sophearak, overland arrivals from Thailand to Cambodia through the Poipet border gate declined 23% during the first half of the year, while air travel between the two nations continued to grow. In total, the number of Thai arrivals to Cambodia equalled 106,000, down more than 4% from the same period last year.

“The political situation has dampened outward tourism to Cambodia. But from this point, I believe we will see tourism figures as a whole steady out to an end-of-year growth average of 8%.”

Earlier this month, during a press tour of Thailand, Thawatchai Arunyik, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand told the Phnom Penh Post that the long-standing political turmoil in Thailand had had an impact on the country’s tourism industry especially with regards to travellers venturing to Cambodia.

“We have to promote it together as we are neighbours,” he said.

“In the past, we promoted the two kingdoms as one destination. People who come to Thailand, they don’t just stop in Thailand, they go on to visit Cambodia too.”

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Private and Public Sector Working Group, said he was confident tourism figures would recover in the second half of the year as Thailand recoups its own numbers, as Cambodia’s peak tourist season returns in October and as direct flights to Japan become available.

“This mid-year figure is not definitive of the end-of-year result. We have just been through the low season,” Mr Vandy said, adding that direct flights to Japan from Cambodia were planned to start as early as next month.

The Japanese tourism market, meanwhile, was among the larger vistor number increases during the first six months of this year, according to the government’s data, with arrivals to the kingdom reaching more than 107,000, up 12% compared to the same six-month period last year.

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