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Chinese tourists soar to 2M

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Tourists visit Siem Reap's Angkor Wat in 2017. Heng Chivoan

Chinese tourists soar to 2M

Cambodia welcomed some two million Chinese tourists last year, up more than 70 per cent on the previous year, boosting the total number of foreign tourists visiting the Kingdom to some 6.2 million, according to Minister of Tourism Thong Khon.

The figures were released during a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong and China’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Luo Shugang, who is visiting Cambodia.

Cambodia’s total foreign visitors last year increased 11 per cent in 2017, with Chinese tourists topping the list for the second consecutive year. Cambodia received 5.6 million foreign tourists in 2017, of which more than 1.2 million were Chinese, earning $3.6 billion in revenue.

According to Khon, Cambodia expects to receive about three million Chinese tourists per year by 2020, five million by 2025 and eight million by 2030.

Khon said the growth of Chinese tourists is a major opportunity for the Kingdom’s tourism sector and would herald investment opportunities in other sectors as well.

“To attract more Chinese tourists to Cambodia in 2019, the country also needs to invest in creating new tourism products with creativity and innovation based on the ‘clean and green’ concept,” he said.

“We would also like to request His Excellency Minister [Luo] to further encourage more direct flights from China to Cambodia to boost mutual growth,” Khon said.

Relations with China have markedly improved in recent years, with Cambodia facing warnings of the removal of the preferential

Everything But Arms (EBA) trade agreement by the EU, the Kingdom’s biggest export market.

As part of his visit – during which the countries announced 2019 as “China-Cambodia Culture and Tourism Year” – Luo also met with Prime Minister Hun Sen aiming to boost mutual cooperation in the culture and tourism sectors.

Luo’s trip to Cambodia comes just over a week after Hun Sen visited China, where he reached agreements for Cambodia to receive more than $600 million in Chinese development aid.

In his speech, Khon said he considers absorbing the flow of Chinese tourists and investment to be key to the future of Cambodia’s tourism industry.

“Cambodia understands this trend clearly and is ready to welcome Chinese tourists and investors, especially by facilitating hospitality, encouraging visitors, and providing a welcoming investment environment to China as a great friend of Cambodia,” he said.

Cambodia Travel Agents Association president Chhay Sivlin hailed the increase in Chinese visitors and said it stemmed from the country’s stability and economic growth.

“The government’s ‘open horizon’ policy of [increased] direct flights, strengthening services and improving Cambodian tourism has driven the growth,” she said.

However, she added that the sharp rise of Chinese arrivals brought some negative consequences, including insufficient domestic service providers, which has encouraged Chinese visitors to use services provided by Chinese operators.

“We are not ready to receive such a huge influx of Chinese tourists. Our services are still limited and it has prompted them switch to use their countrymen’s services,” she said.

However, there are many benefits, both direct and indirect, from the inflow of Chinese, she added.

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