International tourist arrivals to Cambodia for 2013 increased 14.1 percent over arrivals in 2012, despite lingering political uncertainty following the July election, according to preliminary annual figures from the Ministry of Tourism.
The number of visitors entering the country last year reached 4.2 million, compared to 3.68 million in 2012. Vietnamese nationals made up the largest number of foreign visitors, followed by Japanese and Korean tourists.
Kong Sopheareak, director of the Ministry of Tourism, said tourism has been largely unaffected by the political deadlock after the election, and visitors remain undeterred by the mass demonstrations held by the opposition CNRP to protest what they say were multiple electoral irregularities that allowed the CPP to steal the vote.
“Tourism numbers increased, but at a slower rate [than from 2012 to 2013]. But last year we beat our target of 4.15 million visitors, so I don’t think the political situation and protests have affected tourism much. Tourists are still coming because they have planned their holiday and don’t want to change it,” he said.
In July, August and September, hotel occupancy rates dropped by about 15 percent, but tourists soon regained confidence and business quickly picked up, said Luu Meng, the president of the Cambodian Hotel Association.
“Elections are always going to affect businesses and tourism as people wait to see what happens. For sure any protest is going to affect sectors of tourism…. Some people are concerned about the situation in Cambodia, but the majority understand that the political parties are in discussion to avoid any more hoo-ha.
“In July and August, business was a bit slower. But by the end of November and December it picked up, especially in Siem Reap,” he said.
Mey Marady, deputy director-general of the Apsara Authority, which manages the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, said tourists are still flocking to see the 12th century temple, though he could not provide figures. “Nothing has happened in Siem Reap. There is no problem, and tourism here keeps increasing.”