Cambodia woos Chinese tourism
PHNOM PENH, 21 May 2012: Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism hopes to attract more Chinese travellers to the country to reach 1 million trips by 2020.
Tourism Minister, Thong Khon, said China is now one of Cambodia’s key tourism markets and a priority for the tourism industry.
“We expect 500,000 Chinese tourists to Cambodia in 2015 and 1 million by 2020,” he told local media late last week.
But some so-called tourist visits are more likely to be Chinese investors checking out opportunities to buy land, build and run businesses. While a boom in Chinese travel and business investments will benefit the economy overall it could have a damaging impact on the country’s heritage sites and weaken its commitment to sustainable tourism principles.
To achieve its ambitious 1 million target, Cambodia will continue to encourage more direct flight from cities in China.
“We will also encourage owners of hotels, restaurants and tourism resorts to use three languages — Khmer, English and Chinese — in billboards, or promotional leaflets or brochures,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, Tourism Ministry’s Marketing and Promotion Department director, So Visothy, said Cambodia welcomed 2.88 million international tourists in 2011, up 15% year-on-year. Of the figure, 247,197 were Chinese, up 39.2%.
“We believe the target is within reach because the country is politically stable and there is plenty of tourism potential. Diplomatic ties between Cambodia and China are excellent, too.”
There are challenges according to Mr So who recognised there are limited direct flights from key Chinese cities, promotions are weak and Cambodia’s tourism products and services have so far not met Chinese consumer demands.
“The ministry will try to encourage airlines and tour agencies to offer competitive prices to Chinese tourists as well as improve Chinese language skills especially tour guides.
In 2011, Chinese market was placed third in tourism volume, following Vietnam (614,090; +19.4%) and South Korea (342,810; +18.3%).
Vietnam shares borders with Cambodia and overland travel between the country is booming mainly a mix of trade and short sightseeing tours. But earnings are low as is the case with travel from other neighbouring countries such as Thailand (mainly casino visits) and Laos (trade visits).