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China flights hoped to revive tourism

China flights hoped to revive tourism

A million tourists are expected to visit Cambodia in 2004, said Veng Sereyvuth, Minister

of the Ministry of Tourist (MoT), on December 25 following a disappointing year for

the industry in 2003.

Although the Ministry also predicted a million visitors would arrive in 2003, the

country had only welcomed 602,778 tourists by November.

The outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the violence of the

anti-Thai riots in January contributed to the lack of visitors coming to Cambodia.

"In 2003, we didn't get as many tourists as planned because of SARS, but we

will reach our goal in 2004," said Seryvuth.

Reflecting the optimism of 2002 when Cambodia received 786,52 visitors, Seryvuth

said improvements in infrastructure and direct flights from other countries, especially

China, would lure tourists back to Cambodia. New arrivals are crucial in reviving

the ailing industry worth about $450 million in Cambodia and contributing around

10 percent of the country's GDP, said Seryvuth.

Siem Reap Governor Chap Nhalyvoud said that China Eastern Yunnan Airlines had opened

direct flights from Kunming province in China to Siem Reap on December 19. The flights

leave twice weekly on Tuesday and Friday.

"It is good that we have another international direct flight because it is part

of the government's open sky policy," Nhalyvoud said. "We can benefit in

both the economic and tourism sectors."

He said he did not know for sure how many Chinese tourists would come, but he expected

increasing numbers in the next few months. The MoT reported that Chinese tourists

accounted for about 6 percent of the aproximately 600,000 people who visited Cambodia

in 2003.

Director general at MoT, Kousoum Saroeuth said China could boost the tourism industry

as the standard of living for China's 1 billion citizens improved and more have decided

to travel.

Chhim Narith, under secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said the direct

flights from China would have a cascade effect benefiting businesses in other areas.

"Direct flights make tourists more comfortable and reduce their traveling time

so they can visit Angkor Wat," Narith said. "It provides Siem Reap citizens

and businessmen with more jobs."

Saroeuth said Cambodia would ask the Chinese government for more direct flights from

Beijing to Siem Reap.

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