Saturday, December 27, 2008

No smiling matter

The December edition of the glossy Southeastern Globe magazine has a two page article on tourism in Cambodia written by Sam Campbell and contains contributions from myself. The article takes a look at the current situation in light of the monetary worries elsewhere around the globe and here are some extracts:

Tourism's no smiling matter

Europeans and Americans are feeling the heat of the global monetary meltdown and far-flung destinations are suffering the after effects of greater financial caution
Cambodia's financial dependence on tourism in the face of the global meltdown has rung alarm bells across the kingdom. It has also put at risk the livelihoods of economic migrants employed in hotels and tourist businesses in Siem Reap, Cambodia's chaotic de-facto second city and tourism hub. Surprisingly, Cambodia's nascent tourism industry will be little affected, according to Tourism Ministry officials...
Official optimism is, though, only one side of the story...
Mark Ellison, Asia Adventures' managing director, said as far as the western market is concerned "tourism worldwide and in Cambodia will undoubtedly take a downturn". When people's houses are losing value, unemployment rises and uncertainty prevails, he added, "luxury" items such as holidays are the first thing to be cut.
Andy Brouwer, product manager at Hanuman Tourism, agreed. "The global financial crisis is affecting our client base in Europe and America and their willingness to spend large sums of money on leisure," he said. "Long-haul travel is one of the first things to go when times are hard. There may be some pain before Cambodia once again continues its impressive gains."
The negative effects may linger, Brouwer warned. "The crisis is maturing in the US, but even when it bottoms out we can still expect some lean years. The crisis is only just warming up in other parts of the world and it will affect all types of visitor to Cambodia. Older travellers may have seen their savings reduced dramatically, younger travellers will find it harder to come by jobs and loans, while mid-lifers will be looking at the value of their properties and taking more ocal trips."
Christopher Gow, director of Symbiosis Travel, was equally pessimistic for the short term... "certainly has got to diversify. Cambodia is focused so heavily on Siem Reap at the expense of everywhere else...[except] the hoteliers. Even in Siem Reap you only have to go a couple of kilometres and cross the river on the way to the temples to find people who haven't got running water or electricity - they're living in abject poverty and haven't benefited one iota from the massive growth of tourism."
Brouwer was of a similar mind. "It is important that the industry expands its range to offer more to tourists than Angkor," he said. "If there's little else to interest them, tourists will simply use Cambodia as a short-stop destination and primarily limit themselves to Angkor. We need more to attract visitors away from Siem Reap to give Angkor some breathing space. There are plans afoot to expand options on the little-developed south coast, but without harmonious development by the authorities in league with the local population, and the natural resources, this could be a great opportunity lost."
...Gow was more cautious. "I think the Angkor temples will remain a strong attraction but the danger is that it's one of those things people will come and see once and never come back again, unless you diversify," he said. "Every client we have falls in love with Cambodia, but will they go and see Angkor Wat a second time?"
[excerpts courtesy of Southeastern Globe]

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