The number of visitors to Siem Reap’s Angkor Archaeological Park shot up in the first half of 2010 as the site showed increased popularity among Asian tourists, government officials said yesterday.
According to the Apsara Authority, which governs the site, 559,321 tourists purchased tickets to see Cambodia’s most popular attraction, a 22.8 percent increase from the first half of 2009.
“Asian tourists have continued to increase compared to the European tourists, who have more recently faced the economic crisis,” said Apsara Authority general director Bun Narith, adding that the number of visitors to the temples from Singapore and South Korea had increased especially rapidly.
Kong Sopheareak, director of the Tourism Ministry’s statistics department, said yesterday that the visa exemptions created in 2008 for visitors from Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam were partially responsible for the gains.
“The visa exemptions from these countries have helped increased the number of tourists visiting Angkor Wat,” said Mr Sopheareak.
According to a report released last week by the Ministry of Tourism, the number of tourist arrivals from Thailand declined by 12.8 percent in the first five months of this year, but Ly Somret, Cabinet chief to the Siem Reap governor, said that the decline in Thai visitors was probably connected to the overall growth, as tourists may be avoiding political unrest in Thailand and choosing instead to come to Cambodia.
“The important thing is that our country has peace and is safe for tourists,” said Mr Somret. “As Thailand has been in crisis, more people have just flown to Cambodia.”
Ho Vandy, co-chair of a government-private working group on tourism policy, said that an increase in the number of direct flights to Siem Reap would result in more tourism traffic.
According to the Tourism Ministry report, from January through May 565,803, or roughly 54 percent of visitors to Cambodia arrived in Siem Reap. In 2009, only 47 percent of visitors to Cambodia arrived in Siem Reap, with the majority arriving in Phnom Penh.