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Tourism Facing Multiple Strains: Official

Cambodia’s second-largest earner of foreign income, tourism, is starting to feel the effects of a prolonged economic downturn and the unstable political situation in Thailand, tourism experts said Thursday.

The number of foreign visitors was down slightly for the first quarter of 2009, dropping 2.23 percent compared to the same period in 2008, but, officials said, those visitors who do come are spending less money.

“This decline has nothing to do with Cambodia’s performance,” said Ang Kim Eang, president of Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

The industry is facing a swath of problems, from the global downturn, a wobbly government in Bangkok, the spread of the H1N1 virus, and even oil price hikes, he said.

Some have blamed Cambodia’s lack of a national airline for the decline, he said, and are hoping for a new tourism law and an open-sky policy, as well visas on arrival and an expansion of attractions.

Even with the slight decline, the number of tourists from the region has risen. Visitors from the Philippines, Laos Malaysia and Vietnam have boosted business for small hotels, he said.

“Therefore, big and luxurious hotels have faced some difficulties in losing their tourists now spend less money,” Ang Kim Eang said.

To stay competitive in the downturn and to keep numbers up, tourism professionals should target specific countries, said Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Tourism Working Group, who was also a guest on Thursday’s show.

“What we have advised for the government is related to the promotion of targeting specific tourist groups, Japan or Korea, for instance”