A million tourists are expected to visit Cambodia in 2004, said Veng Sereyvuth, Minister
of the Ministry of Tourist (MoT), on December 25 following a disappointing year for
the industry in 2003.
Although the Ministry also predicted a million visitors would arrive in 2003, the
country had only welcomed 602,778 tourists by November.
The outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the violence of the
anti-Thai riots in January contributed to the lack of visitors coming to Cambodia.
"In 2003, we didn't get as many tourists as planned because of SARS, but we
will reach our goal in 2004," said Seryvuth.
Reflecting the optimism of 2002 when Cambodia received 786,52 visitors, Seryvuth
said improvements in infrastructure and direct flights from other countries, especially
China, would lure tourists back to Cambodia. New arrivals are crucial in reviving
the ailing industry worth about $450 million in Cambodia and contributing around
10 percent of the country's GDP, said Seryvuth.
Siem Reap Governor Chap Nhalyvoud said that China Eastern Yunnan Airlines had opened
direct flights from Kunming province in China to Siem Reap on December 19. The flights
leave twice weekly on Tuesday and Friday.
"It is good that we have another international direct flight because it is part
of the government's open sky policy," Nhalyvoud said. "We can benefit in
both the economic and tourism sectors."
He said he did not know for sure how many Chinese tourists would come, but he expected
increasing numbers in the next few months. The MoT reported that Chinese tourists
accounted for about 6 percent of the aproximately 600,000 people who visited Cambodia
Director general at MoT, Kousoum Saroeuth said China could boost the tourism industry
as the standard of living for China's 1 billion citizens improved and more have decided
Chhim Narith, under secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said the direct
flights from China would have a cascade effect benefiting businesses in other areas.
"Direct flights make tourists more comfortable and reduce their traveling time
so they can visit Angkor Wat," Narith said. "It provides Siem Reap citizens
and businessmen with more jobs."
Saroeuth said Cambodia would ask the Chinese government for more direct flights from
Beijing to Siem Reap.