Tourism Numbers Continue Spiraling Higher

The number of tourists visiting Cambodia climbed 28 percent in this year’s first quarter, compared to the same period last year, continuing the upward trend of the last few years, officials said.

From January 2001 to March 2001, 117,645 tourists flew into Pochentong Airport or Siem Reap Airport, said Sambo Che, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Tourism.

He credited the tourism boom on political stability, improved infrastructure and an open skies policy that allows international direct flights to Siem Reap.

“More access to Siem Reap through our open skies policy makes it easier to explore Angkor Wat and to explore Cambodia,” Sambo Che said, adding that the Ministry of Tourism is trying to bring more tourists to Cambodia through promotions both here and abroad.

“The main objective is to introduce Cambodia to the world,” he said.

Infrastructure improvements, such as the ongoing construction at Pochentong Airport, and the increase of flights to Siem Reap, have greatly helped the tourism industry, Sambo Che said.

However, Cambodia’s tourist industry still needs improvements, he said.

“We have to improve on welcoming our guests,” Sambo Che said. “People are always complaining that the airport is too slow, and that our immigration officers are understaffed. That will be a priority.”

Political tension and the regional economic crisis caused tourism to founder during the 1990s, but the industry has boomed in recent years.

In 2000, a total of 351,660 tourists flew into Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, a 34 percent increase over the 262,907 visitors who came to Cambodia in 1999.

US tourists topped the list of visitors during the first quarter of this year, with Chinese second and French third.

According to officials, tourists spent approximately $156 million in Cambodia during 2000, making it one of the country’s most lucrative industries.

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