Tourist Arrivals Reach Nearly 3 Million in 2011

The number of visitors to Cambodia reached 2.8 million in 2011, a 15 percent increase compared to arrivals in 2010, figures released yesterday by the Ministry of Tourism showed.

An increase in the number of airlines sending direct flights to Cambodia contributed to the rising number of visitors, said Kong Sopheareak, director of the statistics department at the Ministry of Tourism.

“There were more direct flights last year, which facilitated the passage of tourists,” Mr. Sopheareak said, adding that a visa exemption between Cambodia and neighboring countries, namely Vietnam, was another reason more visitors traveled to Cambodia last year.

According to the data, tourist arrivals by air rose 16 percent in 2011, while visitors arriving by land increased 13 percent. Arrivals by boat also increased by 7 percent.

Mr. Sopheareak said tourist arrivals to Cambodia are estimated to reach 3.2 million visitors this year, adding that he expected new air links with the Philippines and Indonesia, which are due to come online soon, to bring an additional 500,000 people.

Still, he said the ongoing debt crisis in Europe would mute some of the potential growth to the tourism sector. About 30 percent of tourist arrivals to Cambodia came from the European Union last year while 60 percent came from Asia.

Vietnamese tourists still constituted the largest contingent of tourists to Cambodia last year, with about 600,000 visitors. Korean tourists were the second most represented group, with 330,000 tourists.

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the government-private-sector Tourism Working Group, said more should be done to open up the country to tourism. Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and, to an extent Sihanoukville, are still the only areas frequented by large numbers of people. The national carrier, Cambodia Ang­kor Air, recently started direct flights between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville in an attempt to increase visitors to the coast.

“We need to expand tourism sites, both natural sites or man-made tourism sites,” Mr. Vandy said, adding that the tourism industry still experiences a shortage of trained tour guides.

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