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)