Cambodia is on its way to hitting its projected tourist target of seven million foreigners landing in the country by 2020.
Last year, the number of visitors landing in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh airports increased by 17% to more than four million compared with 2012. And this is a figure the Government and partners within the private sector want to see continuing to rise as the country relies more on tourism to spur on the economy.
Arnaud Darc, CEO of Thalias, which owns a string of restaurants and hotels including Malis and Topaz, says, “The tourism industry is developing at a rapid growth. Last year was the first time in six years I’ve been here that new arrivals at international airports has exceeded four million people.”
In the strategic plan for 2020, the Ministry of Tourism sets out its clear vision for the sustainable development of the tourism sector in Cambodia. By 2020, the country hopes to be welcoming more than seven million foreign visitors, as well as between eight and 10 million domestic visitors.
This leap equates to a $15 billion cash boost in the economy and it is estimated it will create an additional 800,000 jobs. “This is a very important contribution to the country’s GDP,” Darc adds.
Other objectives laid out in the document include adopting an open and transparent approach to all kinds of business. “This is a big thing,” Darc comments. “It helps to support a level playing field for everyone within the industry and ensures a proper environment for stakeholders and investors.”
An open sky policy is already operational, with 27 foreign carriers operating in Cambodia. Several new routes entered the market last year, including Air China launching a direct route from Siem Reap to Beijing. A string of other operators are currently discussing landing in Cambodia in 2014 and beyond, including a direct flight between Cambodia and Japan later this year.
A further study into the options of attracting tourists through other routes is currently underway. This includes using more cruises and improving the roads for coach and other land tours.
Another move that has helped push the industry forward is the implementation of a series of working groups to strengthen ties between the Government and private sector. Any issues can be raised at the sessions and measures are taken to resolve them. If they cannot be resolved, then they are put before Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Darc comments, “The majority of issues are resolved before they reach that level so this is a success. There is a lot of work to be done but we are heading in the right direction and tourism is an industry that is definitely going to grow.”