PHNOM PENH, 20 September 2019: If you count tourist arrivals Cambodia relies heavily on the appeal of two tourists attractions — Angkor Archaeological Park and the Preah Vihear temple — to draw foreign tourists, but that situation is changing according to architects of the country’s latest tourism masterplan.
Details of the upcoming Four-Strategic Plan for Tourism Development are patchy, but a core element focuses on building tourism in emerging destinations.
According to a recent report in the Cambodia Daily, the government plans to add more attractions to supplement the appeal of world heritage destinations. It is preparing to roll out a much broader mix of attractions in the up-coming the Four-Strategic Plan for Tourism Development that will attempt to spread tourism to northern provinces bordering Laos and Thailand.
Ecotourism destinations are high on the agenda including Kratie where visitors can view endangered Irrawaddy dolphins living in a short stretch of the Mekong River just outside of Kratie district. There are also opportunities to explore river communities and homestay options.
The strategic plan also identifies Tonle Sap Lake area as having vast potential to develop ecotourism. Other areas that will gain the Ministry of Tourism’s attention include Kulen Mountain and villages around Siem Reap.
Spreading the benefits of tourism beyond Siem Reap and Phnom Penh the country’s capital is now a priority.
There are signs of a slowdown in visits to Siem Reap, home of the Angkor Wat. Trips declined 9.7%, although the capital Phnom Penh enjoyed an increase of 27.9% attributed to a boost in business travel and leisure travellers heading for Sihanoukville and nearby beach destinations on the southern coast.
Tourist arrivals to coastal areas climbed 31.9% year-on-year during the same period and increased 9.4% in ecotourism areas. Sihanoukville’s boom is driven mainly by Chinese tourists visiting its casinos.
Many of the priorities in the four- year strategic plan are not new. The country has for some time acknowledged it must diversify and introduce new attractions and extend tourist length of stay while building quality tourism.
The Ministry of Tourism has also promised a nation-wide crackdown on fake products mainly souvenirs and jewellery that impacts on Cambodia’s tourism reputation.
According to the Ministry of Tourism report, in the first seven months of this year, Cambodia welcomed 3.84 million foreign tourists, up 11.1% over the same period last year.
Chinese tourist arrivals reached 1.5 million during the period, up 37 per cent year-on-year, Vietnamese tourists hit nearly 480,000, up 4.6% year-on-year, and Laos tourists at 220,000 slumped 1.9%. (Source: Cambodia Daily).