CAMBODIA is increasingly poised to attract tens of thousand of South African tourists travelling through Southeast Asia, Johannesburg’s top diplomatic envoy to the region has said.
He added that although trade remains low, tourism could be the catalyst to expanded commerce between the Kingdom and one of Africa’s largest economies.
While opportunities exist in other sectors – primarily mining, textiles or agriculture – “Cambodia is a small economy, and it does not provide easy access to or from Africa”, said Douglas Gibson, the ambassador to Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, who was visiting Phnom Penh last week.
“The main obstacle at present is lack of knowledge about each other, and perhaps a too-ready focus by some South African exporters on the big markets of Japan, India and China,” he said. “My primary focus would be on developing tourism, in that this is relatively easy and it produces jobs for Cambodians and South Africans far more readily than other types of involvement.”
In 2009, just over 2,100 South Africans travelled to Cambodia, mostly on holiday, according to government figures. But Cambodia could tap into the approximately 50,000 South Africans visiting Thailand each year, Gibson said.
“Perhaps the Cambodian government could arrange for familiarisation tours for South African travel agents to travel to Cambodia for firsthand experience,” Gibson said.
“One of the difficult things we have in Asia, here included, is that people think Australia is in their back yard, whereas Africa is far away. That simply isn’t the case.”