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Cambodia looks to draw more elderly tourists

Tourists walk along the riverfront in Phnom Penh during Water Festival preparations in 2014.
Tourists walk along the riverfront in Phnom Penh during Water Festival preparations in 2014. Vireak Mai

Cambodia looks to draw more elderly tourists

The Cambodian government is preparing a tourism policy to manage the increasing numbers of elderly foreign tourists visiting the Kingdom, an official at the Ministry of Tourism said yesterday.

The ageing population of developed economies like Europe, Japan, and China is on an upward curve and is driving more elderly tourists to countries like Cambodia, Chhay Khunlong, deputy director-general for tourism at the ministry, said during a workshop in Sihanoukville on “Strategies to Attract Elderly Tourists”.

According to ministry data, while Cambodia received about 4.8 million foreign visitors last year, just 4 per cent of them were tourists over 65 years old. However, the ratio is expected to rise, necessitating a new strategy that better accommodates the needs of elderly travellers.

“The number of senior tourists will increase in the future, so we need to give more attention to create tourism products and services that reflect [this],” he said.

Khunlong said elderly visitors need to be provided with better access to health care services and easier access to extended visas. He added that the ministry will work with tour operators to eliminate barriers to encourage more senior tourist arrivals.

His comments come just days since immigration officials announced they would introduce a new visa category to allow foreign retirees to live in Cambodia without a work permit. The initiative is aimed at encouraging more expatriates to settle in Cambodia, and will support a government strategy to boost the country’s attractiveness as a second-home tourist destination by making it easier for foreigners to buy property.

Ho Vandy, secretary-general of the Cambodian National Tourism Alliance, said that while the market segment for the elderly is small, senior tourists can travel throughout the year and this contributes to increased activity during the low tourist season.

“This segment used to be ignored in the past by some tour operators because they think it is more difficult to serve them,” he said, adding that many tourism operators are now seeing the profitability.

Sreat Momsophear, founder of Sophiya Travel & Tours, said that the number of senior tourists using her company has increased in the last few years on the back of more European and Japanese arrivals.

“Cambodia’s tourism industry is beginning to adapt to the senior market,” she said, adding that elderly tourists tend to spend more time and money in Cambodia than younger travellers.

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