The number of tourists visiting the Angkor complex in Siem Reap province fell by 13 percent in 2009 compared to the previous year, an official at the Apsara Authority said this week.
The fall in visitors at the site stands in contrast to the 1.6 percent rise the Ministry of Tourism recorded in visitor arrivals nationwide for the first 11 months of last year, compared to the same period in 2008.
“If we recover from the [economic] crisis, the number of tourists will truly increase,” said an official at the Apsara Authority, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the press.
“I observed that since the beginning of January, the number of tourists has been increasing day by day,” he said.
Reversing a trend of recent years, Phnom Penh in 2009 received a greater number of visitors than Siem Reap, taking in 54 percent of the 1.9 million tourist arrivals in the first 11 months of 2009.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, 520,081 people arrived in Cambodia at Siem Reap International Airport between January and November last year, a drop of 14.13 percent. Phnom Penh International Airport saw a drop of just 8.61 percent.
“More visitors go to Phnom Penh than anywhere else,” said Ho Vandy, co-chair of the government-private sector forum tourism working group. “Phnom Penh is a commercial center which investors are interested in.”
Mr Vandy said that plans to establish direct flights between Siem Reap, Indonesia, Russia and the Philippines would take place this year, helping to “bring more prosperity and more progress.”
Kong Sopheareak, director of the Ministry of Tourism’s statistics department, said the recent upgrade to National Road 6 that connects Siem Reap with Poipet city on the Thai border, would help boost tourist numbers at the Angkor complex this year.
“It’s a large entrance” to Siem Reap, he said of the highway, adding that the new road would increase the number of tourists to Siem Reap by about 20 percent.
He expressed hope that direct flights from Indonesia, Russia and the Philippines would help increase the number of visitors to the area.
A more diverse range of tour packages hitting the market should also help entice more groups from abroad, he said.