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Tourism: more info needed

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In diversifing its holiday attractions, Cambodia’s tourism industry should focus on three key areas – the country’s northeastern region, the coasts and the vicinity around Siem Reap – but efforts to promote these destinations are still lacking, an industry leader says.

In particular, Siem Reap has the potential to receive up to 10 million tourists a year, so visits to its surrounding areas should be encouraged, said Tek Reth Samrach, secretary of state at the Council of
Ministers.

“Today, tourists stay only one or two nights in Siem Reap, and they visit only the main temples of Angkor,” he said.  But their stay would be longer if they knew about the possible attractions surrounding Siem Reap, such as Preah Vihear, Phnom Kulen, Khao Ke temple, Kampong Kdei bridge and the Roluos area, he added.

These areas “need more promotion, more information, and detailed [tour] packages” targeting visitors, said Samrach, who is also chairman of Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA).

Statistics from the Ministry of Tourism show that Siem Reap attracted 2.06 million international visitors last year. International tourists stayed an average of 6.3 days in Cambodia, the shortest duration since 2005, and down from the decade’s high of 6.65 days in 2008.

Samrach was speaking at an industry workshop organised by CAA at Phnom Penh’s Intercontinental Hotel last week.

“In the past, our tourism industry was not able to utilise its potential to a great extent due to many reasons. Consequently, the number of tourist arrivals remained modest,” he said.

To boost tourism, he suggested that tour operators also promote northeastern Cambodia, and list “details of all possible access into this area”. The area encompasses Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng and Kratie provinces, and boasts waterfalls, wildlife and the culture of ethnic minority groups, he said.

As for the coastal areas – Koh Kong, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Kep – “there are many tourists . . . but the tourist information is still limited”.

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the government-private sector working group on tourism, said areas such as Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri are hard to access, often entailing at least a 10-hour drive from Phnom Penh.

Instead, he said, Cambodia Angkor Air and the to-be-launched Cambodia Airlines should institute domestic flights to these areas, so it is “easy for tour operators to promote them”.

As for tourists staying a slightly shorter time in the country, Vandy put it down to today’s ease of travel. With more direct flights now serving Cambodia from abroad, tourists can quickly “come in and get out”, he said.

In 2012, the tourism sector contributed about 12 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product, or some $2 billion, the Post reported earlier this year.

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