Tourism Industry Taking a Hit So Far This Year

Visitor arrivals to Cambodia have decreased by 2.18 percent in the first four months of 2009 compared to the previous year, according to figures released by the Ministry of Tourism on Monday.

Visitor arrivals for the first four months of 2009 hit 800,243 compared to 818,108 in 2008, with Vietnamese and South Koreans making up the greatest number of visitors.

The report also showed a considerable difference between visitor arrivals to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, the country’s foremost tourism destination. Whereas Ph­nom Penh has experienced a 12 percent increase in visitor arrivals in the first four months of 2009, Siem Reap has seen a 14 percent decline.

According to Ho Vandy, co-chair of the government-private sector tourism working group, this is because of the sustained level of commercial activity that continues to take place in the capital.

“Siem Reap is only concerned with tourists. But Phnom Penh is a commercial place. The business people are still coming to the city,” he said.

Mr Vandy said that Phnom Penh’s three and four-star hotels were still registering occupancy levels of between 60 and 70 percent across the board. However, hotels and guesthouses catering for budget clients—namely backpackers and package-deal tour­ists—are feeling the affects of the downturn, he said.

A stroll through the backpacking district along Boeng Kak lake in Phnom Penh makes it clear that the tourists that once poured into the area have largely stayed away.

At Mohammed Norulla’s Indian Curry Pot restaurant, every seat in his spacious dining area stood empty during the lunchtime hours of 1 and 2 pm on Monday. Outside his restaurant he has hung up a sign with a promotion that reads “Free beer with every meal.”

Ros Sokheth, a receptionist at the Green Lake Guesthouse on the Boeng Kak lake, says the guesthouse is also feeling the pinch.

“People used to sit eating and drinking in the restaurant. Now it is very quiet,” he said, adding that he is welcoming just a third of the clients than the during the same period last year.

Despite the slump in low-budget visitor arrivals to Phnom Penh, the hotel sector in the capital has largely escaped the disastrous drop in business that is currently being experienced in Siem Reap, where both the Allison Angkor and the Princess Angkor Hotels, two of the city’s well-known hotels, have closed their doors for the remainder of the low season.

Bun Hok Chhun, sales executive at the four-star Phnom Penh Hotel, said that working in the hotel industry in Phnom Penh was a comparative blessing, as commercial activity in the city was keeping the hospitality industry afloat.

“Business is quite low down this year, but we are still filling 60 to 70 percent of the rooms in the hotel,” he said. “Unlike Siem Reap we depend a lot less on tourists.”

Mr Hok Chhun said that 60 percent of the hotel’s client base are traveling businessmen with the remaining 40 percent representing tourists from Asia, Europe and the US.






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