Following double digit growth in foreign tourist arrivals last year, Cambodia is expected to welcome 6.1 million international visitors in 2018 and is well on course to achieve the government’s goal of having seven million tourists a year by 2020.
Speaking during his ministry’s annual conference yesterday, Tourism Minister Thong Khon said China continues to top the list of foreign visitors by nationality due to the presence of several airlines connecting the kingdom with the East Asian giant.
1.7 million Chinese tourists will visit Cambodia in 2018 and at least 2.5 million will do so by 2020, the minister said, adding that this has been enabled by the government’s focus on the Chinese tourist market, including the creation of its “China-Ready” strategy.
Mr Khon also said the most popular tourism destinations in Cambodia last year were Siem Reap’s Angkor temple complex and the coast.
“In 2018, the government will focus on the development of eco-tourism and strengthening the quality of our service to tourists,” he said.
“A priority is to increase hygiene standards in restaurants, hotels, resorts, and, of course, toilets.”
Luu Meng, co-chair of the government-private sector tourism working group, applauded the results in the tourism sector, and said the key moving forward is to diversify the tourism offer.
“We already have a lot of airlines flying to China, which is a great thing. Now, we need to focus on attracting airlines that can connect the kingdom to more distant destinations,” he said.
“We also need to extend the amount of days that these tourists are spending in Cambodia.”
Thoun Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata), said the government’s priority should be to establish air links with key regional neighbours.
“Cambodia shouldn’t focus much on China. Instead, we should be looking at establishing direct flights with Indonesia and India because people in these countries are interested in visiting Cambodia.”
In 2017, 59 percent of all foreign tourists (3.3 million out of 5.6 million visitors) arrived via air, with the local tourism sector earning $3.6 billion in revenue, an increase of 13 percent year-on-year.
As of last year, Cambodia had a total of 731 hotels with 39,328 rooms, and 2,405 guesthouses with 35,228 rooms.
This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.