Tourist arrivals in Cambodia during the first five months of 1998 were down 38 percent compared with the same period last year, according to statistics from the Tourism Ministry.
Slightly more than 83,000 visitors arrived at Pochentong Airport between January and May, down from more than 134,000 tourists who visited during the first five months of last year.
The number of tourists visiting Cambodia each month is up from the last half of 1997, when 53,000 arrivals were recorded at Pochentong from July through December.
But industry insiders cautioned Monday that a full recovery will not be seen until Cambodia’s next high season begins in October.
“After the elections, if there is no problem, people will come back,” said Sin Sinot, Cambodia country manager for Indochina Services.
In the meantime, tour operators say, business continues to suffer.
Sin Sinot said his company has had on average about 35 bookings a month since the beginning of the year, as opposed to more than 100 bookings a month at this time last year.
Business looks promising for October and November, but if the election does not go smoothly there will be many cancellations, he said.
Diethelm Travel General Manager Jacques Guichendut said bookings for his company are down about 60 percent in the first five months of 1997.
Guichendut said overseas tour operators have ongoing concerns about security, especially in the capital.
“More clients are avoiding Phnom Penh,” he said. “People are afraid of Phnom Penh.”
The main beneficiary of these fears, he believes, is Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat.
The controversial decision last year to begin direct flights to Siem Reap from Bangkok, while believed at the time to be the deathblow for tourism in Phnom Penh, has brought tourists to Cambodia who normally would never have visited, he said.
“For the time being, it was a good decision,” he said. “Without direct flights they would not have come.”