Asian Visitors Could Rescue Tourist Industry

Cambodia’s tourism officials say they will focus on attracting Asian tourists as they try to survive a world-wide downturn in the number of people traveling, following the Sept terrorist attacks in the US and the fighting in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Tourism re­ported a drop of almost 20 percent in the number of foreign visitors to Cambodian from August to September, with Europeans making up the largest percentage of travelers choosing not to come to the country, followed closely by US citizens.

Hardest hit was Siem Reap, which saw the number of travelers arriving from abroad by direct flight decrease by nearly 3,200, or 25 percent, between August and September.

“But from January to Sep­tember our report shows that Chinese and Korean tourists increased, so we will target our campaigns on Asian markets,” said Thong Khon, secretary of state for the Tourism Ministry.

Overall, the number of tourists coming to Cambodia in the first nine months of this year have increased 30 percent from the first nine months of Sept 2000, according to figures from the Interior Ministry’s Immigration Department.

But both tourism officials and those in the service industry are bracing for a dramatic drop as the violence in South Asia continues and terrorists threats persist globally. Already, hoteliers in Siem Reap are reporting decreases of as high as 50 percent in the number of room reservations they are receiving.

Other key areas of commerce, such as the garment industry, are also claiming to be hit hard by the fallout from world events. Fac­tories in Cambodia are complaining of a surplus of goods as global demand drops, resulting in worker layoffs.

Despite this months bleak figures, Thong Khon said tourism officials still hope to exceed last year’s total of foreigners coming to the country by 15 percent.

“We are still optimistic,” he said.

In the absence of other viable sources of national income, tour­ism has emerged as a lucrative industry, with Cambodian officials pushing the Angkor temples particularly hard.

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