Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cambodians and Laotians will be hurt by Thai crisis

Xin Hua reports:
The tourism industry of Cambodia will see a loss of 100 million U.S. dollars this year, if the current chaos in Thailand can't be reversed in three months, Cambodian media on Tuesday quoted minister as saying.

The Thai capital is a regional hub, from where tourists can enter Cambodia, so the situation there can have direct impact over the tourism industry here, Cambodian Tourism Minister Thon Khong told Chinese-language newspaper the Commercial News.

About 1,500 passengers come to Cambodia through Bangkok everyday, making up 30 percent of all daily entry of visitors into the kingdom, he said.

"Each of them is expected to spend 770 dollars per day in the country," he said.

When times were stable, 10 to 12 flights shuttle between Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Bangkok, but the crisis in the neighboring country has stopped the boom and will lead to loss to Cambodia for sure, he added.

Tourism is one of the pillar industries of Cambodia. Over two million foreign tourist arrivals are expected this year according to the government's original plan, but the number has been scaled down by almost a quarter recently due to the global financial crisis.

Cambodia's GDP was only US $26.19 billion in 2007 (CIA World Factbook). Many Cambodians live on less than a dollar a day.

Needless to say, tourism revenue is also likely to plummet in Laos and -- to the extent anyone visits the country -- Burma. The populations of Burma, Cambodia, and Laos are poorest in Southeast Asia.

In the case of Cambodia and Laos, Vietnam may well find certain of its cities positioned to replace Bangkok as a regional transit hub -- Thailand's loss. Tourism to the region will eventually recover, but whether Thailand will remain the central draw can no longer simply be assumed.

I might add though that tourism has exploded rather too quickly in Cambodia and Laos, and a slowdown in tourism-related development in these countries might have long-lasting ecological benefits.

Photo: By Jotman. Shows Cambodian monks' bath.

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