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Cambodia pushes for more Japanese tourism

The Ministry of Tourism held a seminar yesterday to discuss strategies for attracting more Japanese tourists to the country with the goal of increasing inbound arrivals by 50 per cent by 2020.

Japanese ranked sixth in terms of total tourists arrivals by nationality last year, with 193,000 arrivals. However, growth of inbound tourists was sluggish last year, increasing just 0.3 per cent year-on-year.

The seminar’s participant explored ways of promoting Cambodia as a destination to Japanese tourists given the Kingdom’s recent award for Best Tourism Destination 2016.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the ministry’s strategy was to attract 300,000 Japanese tourists, and 7 million total, a year by 2020. One key to achieving this goal will come into play next month when Japanese airline ANA launches the first non-stop flight between Tokyo and Phnom Penh.

“It is very important for us to establish direct flights between the two countries because this will help us make progress towards our goal of significantly increasing the number of Japanese visitors to Cambodia,” he said.

“Most Japanese tourists and businesspeople don’t have the time to travel with many layover stops, so direct flights will give them a much more comfortable and convenient option to travel here.”

Cambodia needs to strengthen the attractiveness and standards of its tourism products as well as provide good quality services if it is to compete with other popular tourism markets, Khon said.

“Nowadays, good tourism standards depend a lot on the cleanliness of tourism sites, but also on factors such as the aesthetic appeal of cities and popular destinations,” he explained.

“We are working to make it more pleasant for tourists by reducing waste, but also planting more trees to make our cities greener.”

During the seminar, Khon explained he hoped to facilitate Japanese tourism by allowing visitors to pay in Japanese yen during their stay in the Kingdom. A similar facility has been suggested for China’s yuan currency.

“We could implement payments in yen without too much difficulty as we already make payments in dollars in our economy and the yen is widely available through currency exchanges,” he said “However, this is dependent on whether restaurants and tourism operators are willing to accept a multiple currency system.”

Cambodia should also focus on improving the quality of travel packages for individuals and families, which represent an important target for tourism growth, said Akihiko Hosaka, a representative of the Japanese Association of Travel Agents (JATA).

Close to two-thirds of Japanese travellers go to Cambodia for leisure, he said, with 66.4 per cent of trips organised around honeymoon tours, sightseeing, study travelling, or visits to friends and relatives. Another 16.3 per cent travel to Cambodia for business-related travels, while the rest visited for reasons such as school excursions or community service.

One key strategy to increase Japanese tourist numbers is the improvement of toilet and sanitation facilities in places like Siem Reap and other major destinations, Hosaka explained during the seminar.

“Other factors include greater development of the infrastructure at tourism sites such as quality restaurant services,” he said.

“The country also needs more internationally accredited guide schools which will help train a greater number of certified, Japanese speaking guides.”

According to Luu Meng, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Working Group on Tourism, the private sector needs to better understand the needs and characteristics of tourists from different countries in order to build on Cambodia’s tourism potential.

“We offer a lot of choice in terms of our tourist products already, but companies now need to sit down and discuss how to provide even better options, and how to advertise them better,” he said.

“Direct flights will contribute to growing Japanese tourist numbers, however, we also need to keep improving the quality of services that we offer to tourists such as better trained tour guides who are better prepared to serve the needs of Japanese tourists,” he added.

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