2007's tourist numbers to Cambodia
have been released and even though the latter half of the year took a big hit due to global financial woes and then the Bangkok fiasco by the Thais, Cambodia still saw an 6% increase in arrivals, with 2.15 million people visiting, though the forecasts had been as high as a 20% expected increase. Near neighbours Vietnam, Laos and Thailand also experienced a drop in their expected tourism numbers and 2009 looks set to be just as difficult for the industry as the latter half of 2008 was. Luxury and long-haul holidays are the first to suffer when everyone is tightening their belts though the numbers of visitors from Vietnam to Cambodia are up and this trend looks set to continue with the relaxation of visa restrictions recently. In fact tourist arrivals from Vietnam were second only to Korea in the top five, with Japan third, United States fourth and China in fifth place. On a sour note, Thailand seem to be doing their best to upset Cambodia (Preah Vihear and the recent airport blockages spring to mind) and the most recent example took place on Christmas Day when nearly 250 Khmer passengers, most of whom had valid Thai visas or exemptions, were refused entry upon arrival. Many of the passengers on the inaugural Jupiter Cruise that left Sihanoukville were senior government officials and RCAF generals but that didn't hold sway with the Thais who refused to let them leave the ship when it docked for a day and night in Pattaya.
Two locations where tourists will no longer be able to stay whilst in Cambodia have been in the headlines this week. The Renakse Hotel, a colonial-style building opposite the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, has been closed by court order and the owner and remaining guests evicted by military police. It certainly looks like this grand old dame of the city has seen it's final paying guests. I stayed there a couple of times in the late 1990s. Meanwhile, down on the south coast, the impending multi-million dollar redevelopment of the idyllic Koh Russei, also known as Bamboo Island, which sits off the coast near Ream, has begun with the notice to quit handed to the owners of the Bamboo Island Bungalows there. Expect more evictions anytime soon.
Labels: Cambodia, Koh Russei