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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Officials look to China to make up for declining Western tourists

Officials look to China to make up for declining Western tourists

Tourism authorities hope to double the number of Chinese visits within the next two years

CAMBODIA is hoping to lure more Chinese visitors in the wake of crippling anti-government protests in Thailand and falling arrivals from Western countries hit by the global financial crisis, tourism officials told the Post Monday.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said that China is a growing tourism market and that officials plan to double the number of Chinese visitors by the end of 2009.

China is the fifth-largest market after Korea, Vietnam, Japan and the United States, with 10,776 visiting Cambodia in the first 10 months of 2008, according to Tourism Ministry figures.

An April 2008 report by the ministry said that 6.4 percent of the total number of tourists to Cambodia in the first four months of the year were Chinese.

In 2007, Cambodia received a 94,374 Chinese tourists out of a total of 2,015,128 visitors, according to the ministry.

"We plan to attract a large number of Chinese tourists to Cambodia in 2009, and step -by-step we will double the number to keep the tourism industry strong," Thong Khon said.

"We expect that a lot of Chinese tourists will visit Cambodia soon if there are more flights than before ... and plan to advertise to attract Chinese tourists through CCTV1 television," he added.

"Through this plan, we expect that big Chinese airline companies will increase their activity, too."

There are currently four air routes between Cambodia and China, including from Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Thong Khon said.

Ho Vandy, chairman of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said the ministry's plan might help attract more Chinese tourists.

He added, however, that he does not expect the numbers to increase dramatically until 2010.

"I think the ministry's plan to attract Chinese tourists to Cambodia is a golden opportunity because China is warning their people not to visit Thailand, which is under turmoil," Ho Vandy said.

According to an evaluation by the World Tour Organisation, in 2020, China will get 100 million international visitors, while the country will also provide 100 million visitors to countries in the region.

Lao Heng, chairman of VLK Tour Company, said that an increase in Chinese tourism would help offset declining visitors from the US and Europe.

"I think we should not depend on only European tourists," he told the Post.

"We had better look at regional tourists because our people need food to eat."

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