Visitor arrivals to Cambodia continued to make steady gains in August as the tourism sector bounced back from a half year of decline with a second consecutive month of growth, an official from the Ministry of Tourism said Tuesday.
Kong Sopheareak, director of the Statistics and Tourism Information Department in the Ministry of Tourism, said that preliminary figures from August’s monthly statistical report show that visitor arrivals increased by at least 8 percent in August compared to the same month last year, helping the sector come back to post an approximate 1 percent rise in arrivals for the first eight months of this year compared to the same period last year.
“This time last year we were already starting to experience the effects of the global economic crisis in this period,” Mr Sopheareak said, explaining why the growth rate for August had hit such high levels compared to recent months.
Tourism was also hurt by political unrest in Bangkok last August, which saw anti-government protesters taking over the prime minister’s compound, Mr Sopheareak said, citing it as another reason prompting the jump in arrivals for this August.
However, Ho Vandy, co-chair of the government-private sector tourism working group, said that the main factor contributing toward the rise in visitors over the past two months stemmed from the government’s policy on visa exemptions between Cambodia and Vietnam.
“The introduction of a free visa between Cambodia and Vietnam is a very important issue,” he said.
From January to July, visitor arrivals from Vietnam, who now top the list of tourists to Cambodia, have increased by 43.6 percent to 172,171. Visa exemptions between the citizens of Cambodia and Vietnam came into effect in December last year and a similar policy with Thailand is due to commence in January next year, according to officials at the Ministry of Tourism.
Mr Vandy said that although arrivals by air had experienced a decline so far this year, the launch of Cambodia Angkor Air would gradually encourage more visitors to travel by plane in the future, especially as Cambodia enters the tourism high season in coming months.