The first direct flight between Japan and Cambodia, which launched last year, has bumped up the number of Japanese tourists visiting the kingdom, helping the government edge closer to its goal of attracting 300,000 tourists from the East Asian nation by 2020, according to the Minister of Tourism.
Japanese tourist have been visiting Cambodia in growing number thanks to a flight directly linking the international airports of Narita in Tokyo and Phnom Penh that started in September last year, said Tourism Minister Thong Khon, who spoke in the sidelines of the first Japan Travel Fair in Phnom Penh during the weekend.
“The increase of foreign tourists, particularly the increase of Japanese tourists, is a direct result of enhanced connectivity between both countries,” Mr Khon said. “Particularly, we have ANA (All Nippon Airways) and their direct flight between Japan and Cambodia to thank.”
During the first nine months of the year, Cambodia was visited by 146,000 Japanese holiday-makers – an increase of 6.8 percent year-on-year – which makes them the seventh largest nationality in terms of tourist arrivals, according to figures from the Ministry of Tourism.
Moreover, the government forecasts a double-digit increase in the number of tourists from the East Asian economic giant in upcoming years, reaching 300,000 tourists by 2020, Mr Khon said, adding that the total number of foreign visitors is expected to be seven million by that year.
“Our great achievements in tourism in recent years are a product of the government’s open sky policy, which has helped promote the tourism sector in Cambodia,” Mr Khon said.
Yamazaki Norimasa, the general manager of ANA in Cambodia, told Khmer Times that tourism between both nations has peaked since the launch of the direct flights.
“In the future, I believe our flights will be used by a lot of Japanese investors seeking opportunities in the kingdom,” he said.
Recognising growing levels of Japanese investment, which totaled $800 million last year, Mr Khon announced that a Japanese consul will be established next year in Siem Reap province to lure even more investors and tourists from Japan.
Chhay Sivlin, the president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), told Khmer Times that as the country welcomes an increasing number of Japanese tourists, the sector needs to focus on improving the quality of their stay by training more Japanese-speaking tour guides as well as staff in hotels and restaurants.
“We made a lot of progress in bringing more Japanese tourists, but we still face some major challenges, including a lack of Japanese-speaking tour guides, as well as a limited offer of tourism products,” Ms Sivlin said.
Last year, nearly 200,000 Japanese holiday-makers visited the kingdom, which meant a one percent decrease compared with the previous year, according to official figures.