Blasts Raise Fears of Lost Tourism, Investors

While there is fear that investors and visitors might avoid Phnom Penh after two bombs exploded in neighboring hotels last week, little evidence exists so far that the blasts have soured the business and tourism climate.

Despite the explosions Wednes­­­day mor­­ning at the Hong Kong and Fa­vour hotels on Moni­vong Boulevard, travel agents, hotel owners and airline officials said they had so far seen no drop off in reservations or occupations.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, as Cambodia’s already shaky image is further tarnished by the international exposure the two bomb attacks gave the country, they said.

Visitors will continue to travel to Cambodia to visit Siem Reap and the temples of Ang­kor Wat, but they will be less likely to visit a place like Phnom Penh if it is viewed as unsafe, they said.

“I’m worried that my clients will be canceling trips to come here,” said Sathol Miyura, president of Cam­bodia’s Tour Agency Assoc­iation. “I think the explosions have created a bad image for tour­ists.”

In addition to the four people detained last week, police are still searching for more suspects in the bombings, which killed three people and injured 11 others.

Authorities were reluctant to speak Sunday, however, fearing they would reveal too much to the public and make es­cape for the suspects easier.

Khem Sophorn, dir­ector of Cam­­bo­dia Mine Ac­tion Cen­ter, is out of the country, so the demining agency will not release its findings on the composition of the explosives.

News of the blasts traveled around the world, broadcast by the Cable News Network, the British Broadcasting Corporation and Voice of America. Those broadcasts will have a “big im­pact” on Phnom Penh tourism, Sath­ol Miyura said.

“I think that Phnom Penh is a good place for bad tourists who want to have sex,” he said, citing the recent arrest of a man who opened a sex shop last week. Po­lice quickly closed it, confiscating a variety of sex toys.

That, coupled with the bombings, paints a poor picture of Phnom Penh for tourists, Sathol Miyura said.

News of the violence also will reach the investment community, and could scare off potential in­ves­tors, said Sok Kong, president of the Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce.

It is normal for local businessmen to hear about kidnappings and other violence, Sok Kong said, but to outside investors the news of Wednesday’s violence could be troubling.

Airline operators said the bombings had done nothing so far to hurt their business.

“The situation is still normal,” said Van Ha, section manager for Viet­nam Airlines.

A Malaysian Air­line official also said there was no impact on flight operations.

Among Phnom Penh’s businessmen, those most worried, naturally, are the hotel owners.

“It causes too much concern for those of us in the hotel service,” said Prakong Suksombot, assistant general manager for the Thai-owned Royal Phnom Penh.

Security has been increased at the hotel, and staff have been no­tified to watch for suspicious looking people going in and out, he said.

Security cameras have been installed at Le Royal Hotel and a private security company has been hired by the Sunway Hotel, officials said.

“I believe that it is not only our hotel that is worried about this case,” Prakong said. “But all are worried, too.”

(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)




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