Tourism authorities and industry players claim that visitor numbers in Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces have not been encouraging since the start of 2023 compared to the same period last year.

Avocado Guesthouse general manager Sim Dimanche in Mondulkiri provincial town Sen Monorom told The Post on August 27 that the number of tourists visiting the province has been “small”.

When the borders reopened following the tapering of the Covid-19 effects in 2022, locals flocked to the northeast provinces, especially Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri, he said.

Commenting on the decline in tourists visiting Mondulkiri in the past eight months, Dimanche said this may be due to three major factors, including the opening of the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, which enabled the ease of travel and short trips.

This saw people travelling between Phnom Penh and nearby provinces to visit places and return home on the same day.

The economic downturn also prompted people to choose nearby places to visit instead of going on faraway trips that might cost more.

“Thirdly, the infrastructure in Mondulkiri province is not in a good condition. Recently, the national road to the province was temporarily cut off due to the floods,” said Dimanche, whose guesthouse recorded a 50 per cent drop year-on-year.

He hopes that more tourists will visit Mondulkiri by the end of 2023, especially foreigners who take breaks during that time of the year.

A receptionist at the Yeak Loam Hotel in Ratanakkiri provincial town Banlung, who declined to be named, said the number of holidaymakers has dropped between 30 to 40 year-to-date compared to the corresponding period last year.

“The decline is not only at the place where I work but in all other guesthouses,” he said, adding that on average, out of 70 rooms, only five to six rooms are booked.

“We will wait and see how it is at the end of the year as it is a time when foreign guests like to visit and stay in Ratanakkiri, which is rich in natural resources,” he said.

Hotel rates of $30 to $50 at the Yeak Loam Hotel have not changed in recent years.

Previously, the government launched the Master Plan for Tourism Development in Mondulkiri (2021-2035) to enhance the attractiveness of the province to visitors.

Data from Mondulkiri Provincial Department of Tourism showed that between January and June, visitor numbers fell 23.3 per cent to 172,311 tourists compared to the first half of 2022.

In that time, local tourists dropped 24 per cent to 169,324 although foreign visitors rose 65 per cent to 2,982 tourists.

Mondulkiri provincial tourism department director Seang Soeun said the reason for the decline in tourists to Mondulkiri may be due to the impact of the war between Ukraine and Russia and the process of preparing for the 2023 national election.

With the improvement of the election process and the formation of the new government, he was optimistic that from the beginning of next year, tourism in Mondulkiri would improve.

He said tourism is important as it contributes significantly to the economy and to the development of Cambodia.