Municipality Reports Drop in Tourists, Ministry Denies

Foreign arrivals through Phnom Penh International Airport dropped 7 percent in 2009 while national visitors to the capital were down 8 percent, according to figures released by the municipality on Monday.

However, the Minister of Tourism questioned the accuracy of the reporting yesterday.

“The number of both local and international tourists increased for Phnom Penh in 2009,” said Minster of Tourism Thong Khon. “The number of local tourists did not decrease, but rose 5 percent.”

“The world economic crisis does not mean that there is a crisis for the tourism sector,” he added. “Local tourists will not go outside the country since it costs so much money, so they prefer to visit attractions in their country.”

Others were less skeptical of the data. Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Government Private-Sector working group on tourism, said the drop was undoubtedly tied to the recession.

“In 2008 everything was booming and the economic growth was very promising. The global economic crisis affected the tourism industry,” said Mr Vandy, noting that foreign and national tourists alike were pinching riel and staying at home.

And directors of Phnom Penh attractions yesterday gave figures approximating those released by the municipality in their annual statistical report. Most noted the drop did not overly affect business.

Chuor Sok Ty, general manager at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center museum in Dangkao district, said yesterday he recorded a 10 percent decrease from 2008 to 2009.

Nevertheless, he said, “This is not such a strong decline.”

“In 2009, the number of international tourists decreased by 10 percent,” said Chey Sopheara, who is deputy director of museums at the Culture Ministry and director of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. But Mr Sopheara maintained there had not been a drop in local tourists.

Hab Touch, president of the National Museum, said that despite a dip in international tourists, he had counterbalanced it by creating a robust program to attract school groups.

“National tourists have risen 40 percent in 2009,” he said. “Thanks to the cooperation between private and public schools, there are now a lot of students who visit the museum.”

  (Additional reporting by Abby Seiff)


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