THE Kingdom is targeting continued promotion of Cambodia to expand into big worldwide population markets as the latest figures show foreign tourist numbers have increased in every quarter of 2010.
The number of tourists has increased by 14.56 percent in the first nine months of the year and Tourism Minister Thorng Khun said 2010 was the year of recovery for Cambodia’s tourism and numbers were expected to hit 2.4 million by the end of the year.
Tourism has been considered as a primary sector among 10 important sectors for developing the nation’s economy and society because the sector contributes about 12 percent of GDP.
Thorng Khun said that with the open strategy for foreigners by not charging for visas with some countries and the improving air flight links between Cambodian and other countries there was an expectation that the number of tourists visiting Cambodia would increase even further.
“We are optimistic about the growing number of tourists under the strategy, and we will continue to boost our targets by more active promotion,” Thorng Khun said.
He said the Kingdom would put its tourism focus on promotion into big population markets such as China, India, Russia, and the Middle East in order to attract more tourists because there was still only a low number visiting Cambodia from those nations.
According to the ministry’s data, 127,829 Chinese tourists visited Cambodia in the first nine months while 9,646 came from India, 20,343 from Russia, and 5,994 from the Middle East.
The minister said the ministry had spent more than US$2 million on promotion in order to attract foreign tourists to visit Cambodia and he wanted more tourists from those countries so that profits would increase and new jobs would be created for Cambodians.
He said there had been a boost to the linkage flight between other nations and Cambodia, with some flights from China, but there were no flights from India, Russia, and the Middle East.
As the world’s economy recovers from recession the number of tourists has increased by 14.56 percent in the first nine months year on year with 1,803,180 flowing into Cambodia, including 68.07 percent from the Asia Pacific region , and 21.84 percent from Europe, America, Africa and the Middle East.
According to figures obtained from the Ministry of Tourism, 613,138 (20.61 percent) of tourists from countries in the Southeast Asia bloc visited the Kingdom, with most visitors from Vietnam which is up to 341,113 or 49.16 percent of the total visitors in the first nine months.
Beside the regional visitors, there are 335,619 European visitors or 18.61 percent of total tourists visiting Cambodia and 76,629 French visitors coming into the Kingdom, both up less than one percent on last year.
There were 142,580 American visitors, 8 percent, a decline of 2.76 percent compared to the same time the previous year, and 3,457 African tourists, a decline of 12.20 percent.
Efforts by the government to counter the drop in tourists from the West by reducing traffic restrictions with Vietnam have been successful, but have also contributed to a shift in the visitor demographic towards lower-spending, shorter-term visitors.
The average international visitor spent about US$1 less per day in 2009 compared to 2008 – just under $112 – which resulted in a fall of around $2 million across the industry. The average visitor also stayed for a briefer period. Cambodia’s tourism industry remains heavily reliant on its two major attractions – Angkor Wat and the capital, Phnom Penh. The major obstacle for the tourism industry is encouraging visitors, Western in particular, to venture beyond these hotspots and explore more of the country.
Ho Vandy, co-director of Team for Private Tourism, said with the new policy and strategy relating to tourism made by the Cambodian government more tourists would be attracted. With the linkage flight with other countries and developing islands and linkage of Siem Reap’s Angkor to the coastal provinces as well ecological tourism sites in northeastern provinces he said he could see an increase of 50 percent in future tourism numbers.
“Cambodia has a strong potential attraction because there are a lot of ancient temples and it is rich in natural resources,” he said.
The Cambodian government has installed a policy to change tourism into culture and nature because it believes there are a lot of wonderfully historical shrines such as Angkor Wat, Preah Vihear, Asia’s largest mangrove, and biodiversity in Tone Sap Lake, that are main tourism attractions for international visitors.
With these potential sources, the Kingdom’s ministry estimated the number of tourists visiting Cambodia will be up to 2.4 million, a 12 percent increase compared to last year, and the revenue from the sector is expected to be about US$1,631 million.
There were 2,161,577 foreigners visiting the nation last year, a 2 percent increase compared to 2008, earning up to US$1,595 million.