Prime Minister Hun Sen last week said that the recent drop in the number of tourists in Siem Reap, home of the famed Angkor Archaeological Park, should not be a cause for concern as it is the result of a government push to diversify the Kingdom’s tourism offer.
In a voice recording share with local media on Saturday, Mr Hun Sen urged journalist to “see the whole picture”, noting that tourist arrivals for the country as a whole have increased.
“There has been a small slowdown in the number of tourists to Siem Reap. This is because we now have many other tourism destinations,” Mr Hun Sen said.
“The decline of tourist arrivals in Siem Reap does not mean that fewer tourists visited Cambodia. Focusing on just one place creates a false picture of the situation of the tourism sector and the country’s economy. This is not how it should be done.
“The first thing we have to do is look at the figures for tourist arrivals for the whole country. The overall number of tourists coming to Cambodia has increased. For example, the number of tourists in Sihanoukville is on the rise.
“We cannot look at just one tree; we have to look at the whole forest. We must focus on making Cambodia a more attractive destination,” he said.
Hun Sen stressed that Cambodia has been diversifying its tourism offer away from just the Angkor Archeological Complex and the coast. He said that alternative tourism sites are now becoming more popular with international travellers, including Kampot, Kep, Koh Kong, Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri provinces.
“If the data for the whole country showed a decrease in tourist numbers then we would have a problem. It would be a wakeup call.”
Mr Hun Sen also suggested that the decline in tourist numbers to Siem Reap could be due to an economic slowdown in the region and the world causing people to travel less.
According to a recent report from the Ministry of Tourism, tourist arrivals to Siem Reap from January to June decreased by 8 percent compared to the same period last year. About 1.2 million tourists visited the province during the first half of the year.
However, Cambodia welcomed 3.3 million international holidaymakers during the same period, an 11.2 percent increase.
Tourism Ministry spokesman Top Sopheak agreed with Mr Hun Sen’s remarks.
“We have seen a decline in the number of tourists visiting Siem Reap but the number of international travellers in the coastal areas and the Northeast has increased.
“If the overall number of tourists coming to Cambodia had decreased, we would have a reason to worry. Fortunately, that’s not the case,” Mr Sopheak said.
Last year, 6.2 million foreign holidaymakers visited the Kingdom, a 10.7 percent increase year-on-year. Cambodia is expected to attract 7 million foreign tourists in 2020, generating $4.3 billion for the industry.