Officials look to revive the flagging sector with athletic competitions
at its marquee tourism draw, the ancient temples of Angkor
GOVERNMENT tourism officials are organizing two major sports events at Angkor Wat to invigorate tourism at a time when consumers around the world are feeling the squeeze.
Over the weekend, tourism minister Thong Khon announced the upcoming half-marathon on December 7 around the ancient temple grounds,with some 1,300 Khmer contestants and 800 foreign contestants representing 31 countries.
Several days later, on December 11, local and international professional golfers will tee off at the second annual Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open.
"The two events will help attract tourists to Cambodia. They will show Cambodia has good security and political stability," Thong Khon told reporters at the Ministry of Tourism.
Cambodia received 1.7 million international visitors in the first ten months of this year, according to the ministry - more than an eight percent increase compared with last year.
"We expect the number this year to reach 2.15 million," he said.
At the end of last year, the government predicted international visitor arrivals to reach 2.2 million in 2008 and 2.7 million in 2009. They have since curbed their expectations following the global financial crisis and border disputes with Thailand.
Not enough to save the day
The president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, Ho Vandy, was sceptical the two events would stem downward trends in the sector.
"The ministry must be more realistic. The best plan to attract more tourists is to increase the number of international flights and push for lower prices of air tickets," he told the Post.
Speaking at the Government-Private Sector Forum in Phnom Penh on Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the tourism ministry to target more Asian visitors to diversify the demographic of its market.
"I have ordered the tourism ministry and civil airline authority to double their efforts to attract more regional tourists ... rather than relying on long-distance tourists to sustain growth," he said.