Cambodia and China have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on tourism cooperation for 2019-21, one which aims to attract more Chinese tourists and investors to the Kingdom.
The MoU was signed by Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and Lin Jingzhen, Bank of China executive vice-president, during the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on Friday.
The content of the agreement includes product creation, marketing, promotion and the creation of online or digital payment systems for Chinese tourists.
Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak on Sunday said the MoU will further attract Chinese tourists and investors to the Kingdom.
“The Chinese coming to Cambodia will not all be tourists but also investors. The arrival of tourists will create new jobs for Cambodians,” he said.
The Kingdom expects to receive three million Chinese tourists by next year, five million by 2025 and eight million by 2030.
The MoU also cited increasing air connectivity to key tourism destinations, human resource training and capacity building for public officials, as well as activities to support and promote the development of Cambodian tourism.
Some argue that the influx of Chinese tourists does not provide much in the way of positive impacts for local communities as they mostly use products and services set up by other Chinese.
However, a Ministry of Tourism spokesman said that although locals usually do not receive direct benefits from the tourism sector, they may indirectly do so.
“I recognise that in some places [the Chinese] run businesses to serve other Chinese, but such businesses are also open to Cambodians.”
Pacific Asia Travel Association president Thourn Sinan hailed the MoU as a boost for cooperation with China.
He said that to benefit locals, authorities must strengthen the enforcement of its laws to limit the types of businesses foreigners can open and the size of their initial investments. This would stop them from taking capital and opening businesses on a whim, he said.
“I am optimistic that Cambodia will not lose the benefits of cooperation with China if we follow our existing laws,” he said.
Government-Private Sector Working Group on Tourism co-chair Luu Meng said the increasing number of tourist arrivals is a good thing because the tourism sector can improve people’s standard of living.
However, he said: “Cambodia should also strengthen law enforcement, management and the business practices of foreigners.”
Cambodia last year received a total of 6.2 million tourists, up 11 per cent compared with 2017. Chinese tourists made up the largest group for the second consecutive year, with approximately two million visitors last year, Ministry of Tourism data shows.