Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 20 called on the authorities and the public to keep developing and carrying out nature-oriented tourism activities to draw in more national and international sightseers, promote care for the environment, and help local communities protect forests and conserve the Kingdom’s natural resources.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Project for Flood Protection and Drainage Improvement in Phnom Penh Capital City (Phase IV), the premier commented on the generous amount of new tourist sites and communities that have sprung up this year seeking to improve the environment in general.

He said many of these inspired a fair share of people to visit during last week’s Khmer New Year holidays.

“This point should be refined and expanded upon everywhere, do whatever it takes to get our people to make the trip, while connecting with the earth and showing love for the environment, and using the environment to make money instead of cutting down trees or shooting animals, which could lead to its destruction,” Hun Sen said.

The prime minister also noted that at the village- and commune-level, the authorities and the people have considerably improved the local tourist spots, especially in Battambang province, which he said drew in the most domestic travellers during the holidays – a claim confirmed by tourism ministry statistics.

Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou affirmed that his province was doing its part, and now boasts more than 20 major nature-oriented tourism sites.

He told The Post on April 20 that the provincial authorities have been attentive and taken great care to organise and follow through on nature-oriented tourism activities that provide recreational experiences to locals and foreigners alike, which he said convinced throngs of holidaymakers to visit last week.

Lou stressed the importance of the environmental, community and sanitation aspects in the province’s considerations in nature-oriented tourism planning, pointing out how much of a deterrent strewn rubbish and generally unclean places can be for repeat visitors.

Another such deterrent is a hike in prices, such as those of food or accommodations, he said, adding that officials had worked with business owners and the public at length to thoroughly address the issue.

“We have tonnes of travel hotspots and the food is delectable. The many who come around will want to know of the tasty dishes and many places to visit here in Battambang – then they’ll want to return. Furthermore, we’ll be striving to create more new ecotourism products,” Lou said.

He revealed that the provincial administration plans to introduce boating facilities along the Sangke River in a bid to bring in more tourists.

The tourism ministry reported that 5,175,754 domestic holidaymakers made trips across Cambodia during the extended Khmer New Year weekend from April 14-17. Revellers were overwhelmingly Cambodian nationals, with 35,259 foreign residents (0.68 per cent).

Ministry figures show that the most popular destinations over the four day weekend, and their corresponding visitor numbers, were the provinces of Battambang (653,896), Kampong Cham (541,900), Banteay Meanchey (471,119), Siem Reap (455,984), Prey Veng (396,328), Kampong Speu (345,018), Pursat (338,916), Kampong Chhnang (300,561), Kampot (284,893) and Preah Sihanouk (264,308), followed by Phnom Penh (240,460).