Tour Guides, Hoteliers Shaken

The Minister of Tourism as­sured members of the Phnom Penh Hotel Association Thursday that the future of Cambodian tour­ism looks bright, despite in­vestors’ grumbling that weak law en­forcement could scare away prospective visitors.

“No terror is taking place. There is no war taking place. This is one event,” said Tourism Min­is­ter Veng Sereyvuth to hoteliers and travel agency rep­re­sentatives gathered at the Min­istry of Tourism.

Veng Sereyvuth promised a “swift return to normal within a few days, not weeks.”

Tourism is one Cambodia’s few viable industries, and it has grown dramatically in recent years.

Hotel ­managers said it was too early to forecast the impacts of the riots, but voiced worry over ill-prepared se­curity forces.

“I cannot stop thinking that… something like this will happen with Singapore or Malaysia. We need reassurances that…in the case that something similar happens” there will be reliable security to keep the peace, said Hotel Cambodiana General Manager Michelle Horn.

Despite Veng Sereyvuth’s hope­ful words, international ob­servers say Cambodia’s tourism and business sectors will suffer.

“Tourists don’t like to go places where they see news that there is fighting,” said analyst Tim Smyth, managing director of Indochina Research.

A Western diplomat also said Thurs­day that the riots severely compromised Cambodia’s foreign investment and tourism op­portunities. “People have reason to be concerned. It really doesn’t look good,” the diplomat said.

But security expert Eric Lim doubted the riots would weigh heavily upon Cambodian tourism.

“If you look at this as an isolated incident, this appears significant. But if you compare it to re­gional terrorism, this is not important,” said Lim, director of ACET Cam­bodia LTD, which provided security for Novem­ber’s Asean Summit.

Weiser Winfried, head of the German Studiosus tour group, said the riots spoiled his business. “I think we won’t come back for another year or two,” he said af­ter watching protesters burst through the windows of the Juliana Hotel.

(Additional reporting by Kay Kimsong)



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