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Japanese tourists targeted

Cambodia saw an 18 percent increase in foreign visitors in January, compared to the same month last year, as officials encouraged tour operators to increasingly target Japanese tourists.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said today visitors from South Korea, Vietnam and China counted for much of January’s increase.

However, Thai visitors decreased 18 percent compared to January 2009 to just 13,310, data showed.

Of the 247,471 foreign visitors to Cambodia in the first month of 2011, the largest source was South Korea, with 42,939 travellers – a 36.9 percent increase on the same month the year previous.

Vietnam was the second largest source, with 37,858 visitors, while 21,927 entered from the People’s Republic of China in January.

Thong Khon, speaking at the Phnom Penh Hotel, also said that Japan was a lucrative market that local tour operators could further target.

The island nation sees 15 million people travel abroad each year, but ministry statistics showed 15,474 Japanese visitors entered the Kingdom in January.

“Japanese tourists are a main target we must attract,” he said.

“I appeal to Japanese companies to look for opportunities to invest in Cambodia – such as Japan Airlines beginning direct flights to Cambodia.”

Cambodia’s Ambassador to Japan, Hor Monirath, said on the conference sidelines that All Nippon Airways could begin low-cost flights to Cambodia this year, thereby increasing the number of Japanese visitors.

Only 3 percent of Japanese visitors to the Kingdom enter for business purposes, he said, adding much of his work involved attracted tourists from the nation to visit Cambodia.

“I believe the number of Japanese visitors will increase, and regular direct flights between Cambodia and Japan will soon materialise,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister Thong Khon confirmed direct flights had begun between Myanmar’s largest city Yangon and Cambodia’s Siem Reap on February 23, and were currently flying twice a week.

“I am hopeful tourism will continue to grow because of charter flights and links between Cambodia and Europe, and visa exemptions among ASEAN nations,” Thong Khon said yesterday at the workshop promoting Japanese visitors to the Kingdom, The minister also pointed to eased transportation links, competitive pricing and a secure environment in January as leading to increasing tourist numbers.

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