Despite fears that avian influenza might deflate the tourism industry in 2004 as severe acute respiratory system did in 2003, Ministry of Tourism statistics obtained Wednesday show that tourist arrivals are up 21 percent from the same period last year.
Through the first three months of this year, 254,437 foreigners entered Cambodia, putting the country on pace to reach its long-standing goal of 1 million visitors in single year.
“Our country has not been affected by SARS or bird flu, either,” Nuth Nindeoun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, said Wednesday. “I believe we will definitely reach
1 million visitors in 2004, if there is no external problem.”
The tourism industry has enjoyed steady growth since 1994 when 176,617 visitors arrived in a single year, and reached its peak when 786,524 people visited the country in 2002.
Optimistic, tourism officials then declared 2003 “Visit Cambodia Year” and predicted at least 1 million visitors.
But the triple whammy of SARS, the US-led war in Iraq and the anti-Thai riots all contributed to turning 2003 into a disappointment. The country welcomed fewer tourists last year than every other year since 1997, when factional fighting deterred visitors.
The tourist influx in the first four months of 2004 has increased revenues at Angkor Wat, according to statistics from the Apsara Authority.
About 150,000 tourists have traveled through the ancient temple complex so far this year, almost half as many as the 321,557 tourists who bought tickets to Angkor Wat in all of 2003. Apsara has already collected more than $4.3 million, just less than half of the nearly $9.5 million it collected in all of last year.
Most visitors in the first quarter came from Japan, Korea, the US, Britain and France.