‘Stability’ Boosting Cambodia’s Tourism

The number of foreigners visiting Cambodia rose 33 percent during the first eight months of the year, an increase tourism officials attributed to “improved security and political stability.”

A Ministry of Tourism report showed that the number of arrivals through August was 166,536, compared to 124,706 for the same period in 1998.

“The international view of Cambodia has changed for the better since [the new government was formed],” said Pak Sokhom, director of the Ministry of Tourism’s marketing and promotion department.

Festi­val Angkor 2000, a three-day celebration scheduled to take place in Siem Reap beginning Dec 30, will increase the country’s international profile even more, he added.

Tourism Minister Veng Serey­vuth will visit Viet­nam on Sunday in an effort to promote Phnom Penh as a tourist destination, Pak Sokhom said.

Local ravel agents confirmed the tourism industry has focused on the Angkor temple ruins, to the exclusion of other areas.

Meng Hieng, managing director of Pich Tourist Co Ltd, said that perhaps 30 percent of his bookings are for direct flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap.

“But even the 70 percent who visit both [Siem Reap and Phnom Penh] spend very little time in the capital,” he said. “While the Ministry of Tourism has some ideas for promoting Phnom Penh, it has been difficult for the government to open new [tour­ist] destinations at this time.”By far, the largest percentage of tourists in the first eight months of this year were from the Asia-Pacific region, whose numbers rose by about 22 percent to 88,964.

Of these, Chinese nationals comprised the largest group. Arrivals from North and South America in the first eight months rose by a dramatic 69 percent to 24,048, with US citizens accounting for almost 90 percent. The number of Euro­pean tourists increased by 26 percent to reach 38,634, of which 16,042 were French nationals.

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