Cambodia is branding itself as a natural wonder. As the PR campaign approaches its second year, the government is now expanding on the message – at home and abroad
Owners of Cambodia’s hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations have embraced the campaign.
Millions of viewers of CNN International may now identify Cambodia as the “Kingdom of Wonder”, but the tagline has yet to do wonders for the country’s tourism industry. Despite an international branding campaign launched in November 2008, the tourism sector in Cambodia has seen a decline in arrivals from developed countries.
Recent reports from the Ministry of Tourism showed a 9.98 percent increase in overall visitors to the country due to a 43.66 percent rise in arrivals from Vietnam and a 126.29 percent spike in visitors from Laos. However, arrivals from critical markets in China, South Korea and Japan have dropped.
Visitors from South Korea, which used to be the leading contributor of visitors to the Kingdom, have fallen 31.23 percent in the first eight months of the year to 123,729, Ministry of Tourism figures released last month show. Japanese visitors fell 14.05 percent over the same period to 77,305, as arrivals from China fell 10.24 percent to 70,135.
Translating the Wonder
With hopes of milking the economic recession for what it is worth, Cambodia’s Government-Private Sector Forum (GPSF) aims to turn Cambodia into a tourism boom and reel in regional travellers from developed Asian countries.
The GPSF tourism working group has proposed expansion of the “Kingdom of Wonder” campaign to countries such as China and South Korea.
“It would be very useful,” said Ho Vandy, co-chair of the group, about plans with the government to locate specific native-language TV stations in China and South Korea to broadcast translated versions of the “Kingdom of Wonder” spot. “We spend less money and the information goes directly to the places where we need it to go,” adding that the group has sent a request to the ministry for a recommendation of where they should begin to focus their creative effort, but have yet to receive a reply.
The ministry footed the bill for production of the promotional ads and the cost of airing them on CNN International, but the “Kingdom of Wonder” brand was born out of a branding campaign jointly produced by the International Finance Corporation, the private-sector arm of the World Bank, and the German Technical Co-Operation (GTZ). Sue Kennedy, a sustainable tourism professional, worked with an advertising agency to conceptualise the national branding campaign for Cambodia.
The GPSF is also tasked with developing policies and strategies regarding tourism that are sent to the Tourism Ministry to review and act upon. However, its most recent proposal has stalled while the government pursues other strategies.
The ministry wouldn’t give a target date for extending the campaign to local markets and said that it is pleased with its current television contracts. “CNN International reaches all of the places we want to reach,” said Secretary of State So Mara, adding that the ministry is trying to get journalists and news stations in foreign locations to report more on Cambodia.
The brand begins
In July, the government spent US$340,000 on a deal to show its ads on CNN International, an English-language channel that reaches more than 200 million households and hotel rooms throughout the world, at a 75 percent discount from the American-based company.
Although CNN is the only international outlet for the “Kingdom of Wonder” campaign, owners of Cambodia’s hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations have embraced the branding initiative at their own establishments.
Luu Meng, president of the Hotels Association of Cambodia and owner of the Almond Hotel in Phnom Penh, said that the ministry provided CDs along with a brand book containing seven logos as part of the entire “Kingdom of Wonder” branding campaign so that private companies can integrate it into their own promotional materials.
“Now the government has a nice slogan and a nice marketing tool,” he said. “It benefits all of us to participate in this campaign,” Luu Meng said.
The ministry has also produced a 10-minute “Kingdom of Wonder” DVD and magazines to hand out at tourism fairs around the world. On recent trips, the government has sent 30-40 Cambodian actors to Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City with financial assistance from companies such as NagaWorld, Sokimex and Canadia Bank.
Living the wonder
The other side of the “Kingdom of Wonder” campaign, which is overseen by an inter-ministerial “Kingdom of Wonder” committee as well as a Ministry of Tourism sub-committee on campaign promotion, is an internal effort to make people conscious of their contribution to the country’s environmental and aesthetic appeal.
The “Kingdom of Wonder” campaign is aimed at promoting “clean resorts, clean cities and good service”, but places such as Phnom Penh may not fulfill such expectations. In an effort to change people’s methods of disposing trash, the Ministry has produced Khmer-language public-service announcements to be aired on all national television stations.
The public-service spots, directed by Sok Somart, who was also creative director of the “Kingdom of Wonder” campaign, promote throwing away trash and cutting down on pollution. These public-service spots are aired by Cambodian TV stations four or five times a day at no cost to the ministry.
“Internationally, we are attracting people to come here,” said So Mara. “But we must also prepare ourselves to welcome them.”