In a sign of recovery following sluggish growth in the tourism sector, the number of visitors to Cambodia rose by 11.5 percent in the first five months of the year over the same period last year, according to data released yesterday by the Tourism Ministry.
About 1,050,000 people visited Cambodia between January and May, said Kong Sopheareak, director of statistics and information.
In contrast to rosy figures this year, arrivals in the first five months of 2009 decreased by 2 percent over the same period in 2008. Total arrivals in 2009 had increased by 1.7 percent compared to the year before.
“The economic crisis has disappeared gradually and now [the tourism sector] is recovering,” said Mr Sopheareak, adding that the removal of visa requirements for some Asean countries has assisted the increase.
“We think that tourism numbers will continue to increase as long as we keep facilitating the transportation means,” he said.
Still, many of the new visitors are not tourists, he said, attributing the five-month, 43.8 percent increase in Vietnamese visitors to eased border controls which have allowed more short business trips. Vietnam is the number one country of origin for visitors to Cambodia, sending 175,937 people in the first five months of the year.
Air arrivals increased 12.17 percent to 552,500 during the five month period and have a larger impact on the tourism industry than short business trips, he said.
“When there are more flights there will be more tourists coming to Cambodia,” he said.
Ho Vandy, co-chair of the government-private sector working group on tourism, said air arrivals are a particular boon to tourism since airline passengers tend to be more affluent.
“The state and private sector have cooperated together, reducing the tour package with good quality of service to attract the tourists,” he said.
Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said growth was likely to intensify at the end of the year during the beginning of the high season.
“We will continue to have growth in the next six months,” he said.