Cambodia has been successful in transforming its image in the eyes of the world from a country of war and tragedy to one of spectacular cultural treasures and natural beauty, which has helped it create a thriving tourism industry, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday.
“Cambodia was previously famous for war and conflict, but now it is renowned for its cultural [heritage] and eco-tourism,” he said.
Tourism numbers and a bevy of accolades would appear to support the prime minister’s observation, which was made during the presentation ceremony in Phnom Penh for the Kingdom’s latest international distinction: “World’s Best Tourist Destination for 2016.”
The Bucharest-based European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT) bestowed the prestigious title on Cambodia last week on account of its rich cultural and historical legacy and outstanding natural beauty, as well as its safety track record. The Kingdom beat out 29 other competing countries to clinch the top billing.
The ECTT also named Cambodia as “Favourite Cultural Destination in 2016.”
Addressing the ceremony, Tourism Minister Thong Khon said tourism is enjoying healthy growth, with 4.8 million tourists visiting the Kingdom last year, 6.1 per cent more than in 2014, generating over $3 billion in revenue while providing direct employment for more than 620,000 people. The minister projected that tourism would grow to 7 million visitors per year by 2020, generating $5 billion and providing more than a million jobs.
Khon said international acclaim was good for business. He noted that countries that previously won ECTT’s annual tourism awards went on to experience significant increases in inbound European tourists.
“Cambodian tourism will help develop the country,” he said. “More European tourists will visit Cambodia, which pushes socio-economic development in a sustainable manner.”
Cambodia has received a number of other international tourism awards and distinctions over the past year.
In March, travel planning website TripAdvisor ranked Siem Reap – gateway to Angkor Wat – as the top destination in Asia and fifth best travel destination worldwide in its annual Traveller’s Choice Destination awards.
Last year, Cambodia clinched the title of “Best Culture & Heritage Tour Destination” among 36 countries participating in the annual World Travel Fairs (WTF) awards. Angkor Wat bagged the award for “Asia’s Leading Tourist Attraction.”