Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Koreans top the chart but fewer Brits

The number of foreign visitors to Cambodia has increased in the first six months of 2006. From January to June, 813,392 tourists and those on business visited Cambodia, 19% more than the same period of 2005, according to the Ministry of Tourism. South Korean tourists are still at the top of the list numbering 148,000, followed by Japan at 70,000 and United States with 60,000, while the numbers of tourists from the UK and France decreased. In fact, my trip in January meant I was one of 34,000 UK visitors in the first six months of this year. Minister of Tourism Lay Prohas (pictured) said the ministry is confident that it can reach its target of 1.6 million visitors for 2006, which should generate 1.2 billion US dollars in revenue. Tourism is one of the main sources of foreign exchange revenue for the country.

In 1999, Cambodia welcomed 367,743 tourists, though with 1,421,000 visitors in 2005, tourist arrivals have increased by 286% and earned about 10 million US dollars. The Ministry of Tourism estimated that the average tourist spent approximately $770 while visiting the country. They predict that the tourism sector will continue to grow by 25-30% until 2010. Way back in 1994 when I visited Cambodia for the very first time, tourist arrivals totalled just 133,341 for the whole year, with a meagre 5,000 from the UK. As Welsh singer Mary Hopkin would say; "Those were the days my friend..."

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