A sharp rise in visits by Chinese and Lao tourists offset a double-digit decline in Vietnamese arrivals during the first half of the year, pushing the Kingdom’s tourism sector into record territory.
Chhay Khunlong, deputy general director of the Tourism Industry Department at the Ministry of Tourism, said Cambodia received more than 2.6 million foreign tourist arrivals during the first six months of 2017. The total represented a 12.8 percent increase compared to the same period a year earlier, and was the highest volume ever recorded in a six-month period.
China topped all other countries for inbound tourism, with the number of arrivals increasing 40 percent year-on-year to 529,967 visitors during the first half of the year, and accounting for about 20 percent of all international arrivals.
“The government targeted Chinese tourism and is trying to promote more arrivals . . . to reach our target of 2 million Chinese tourists a year by 2020,” Khunlong said yesterday.
The huge gain in Chinese tourists offset the drop in Vietnamese arrivals, which declined by 15 percent year-on-year to 392,388 during the first half of 2017, Khunlong said. Meanwhile, visits by Lao tourists soared over 82 percent to 224,272 during the period.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Travel Agents Association, said the fluctuation in visits by individual nationalities was not an issue given that the overall trend was for more tourists. In any case, she projected that Vietnamese inbound tourism would bounce back next year once the government turns its attention to addressing the issues that caused it to slow.
“The growth of Vietnamese arrivals will increase next year as currently tourism operations are focused on implementing the government’s policy to attract more Chinese tourists,” she said.
She suggested that the slowdown in Vietnamese arrivals could also be the result of authorities taking action against Vietnamese tour buses and guides, which domestic operators have claimed are damaging their business.
“The Vietnamese only use direct buses from their country and their own guides, which keeps local tourism operators from receiving any profits, so authorities have taken action to address this,” she said.
Of the 2.6 million foreign tourist arrivals during the first half of the year, some 60 percent, or 1.6 million, arrived by air, according to ministry data. Around 36 percent entered Cambodia by land crossings, and 89,525 arrived by sea.
Khunlong said 1.4 million foreign tourists visited Phnom Penh, 1.2 million visited Siem Reap, and just over 400,000 visited Sihanoukville.