The Cambodian tourism sector must be prepared to welcome a growing number of Chinese tourists, as they lead the globe in the number of outbound travellers and were responsible for the most visitors to the Kingdom last year, the country’s tourism minister said on Thursday.
Speaking at the inaugural Cambodia-China tourism forum in Phnom Penh, under the theme of “Embracing the Opportunity of Tourism Development on the Silk Road”, Thong Khon, Cambodian’s tourism minister, said the world has turned to focus on the potential of Chinese visitors. He added while the Chinese have become the fastest-growing nationality of outbound tourist, the World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) has recommended its member countries to prepare for hosting Chinese tourist.
Adding that the cooperation in the tourism sector between Cambodia and China has been strengthened in 2018, 60 years after the two countries began diplomatic relations, Khon said, “through positive strategic and comprehensive cooperation, the inflow of Chinese investment and tourists to Cambodia will keep increasing annually”.
China sent 1.2 million visitors to Cambodia last year, accounting for more than 21 percent of the total 5.6 million international visitors, according to figures from the Ministry of Tourism.
The data revealed that in the first three months of this year, Cambodia received more than 1.7 million international visitors, an increase of 14 percent from the same period last year. Among the total amount, Chinese tourists accounted for 505,940, up 85 percent compared to the same period in 2017.
Khon said on Thursday Cambodia is expected to receive 6.2 million international tourists this year, before having 7 million international tourists in 2020, which will bring in $5 billion in revenue and offer jobs to 1 million people. He added that international tourists will reach 15 million in 2030, bringing $10 billion revenue and offer jobs to 2 million people.
Much of the investment in tourism focused on bringing in visitors from China has been seen in the Kingdom’s coastal town of Sihanoukville.
As the beach town changes and the government welcomes the surge in development spending, many local owners have asserted that Chinese investment has created a closed loop with few new opportunities for Cambodians, forcing locals out of any potential economic gain.
In response to these concerns, the Cambodian government set up an interministerial task force in January to address the issues.