The fifth annual Japan Travel Fair was held by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) at Phnom Penh’s AEON Mall I on December 9 and 10. The event, which showcased a blend of traditional and modern Japanese culture, was aimed at promoting tourism between the two countries.

According to the JNTO, 17,705 Cambodian tourists visited Japan between January and August this year.

Japanese ambassador Atsushi Ueno addressed the event. He noted that Japan’s goal is to attract 60 million foreign visitors annually by 2030, and spoke about his nation’s post-Covid-19 tourism recovery, sharing that foreign visitor numbers now surpass pre-pandemic levels. 

“Recently, the number of visitors to Japan from Southeast Asian countries, including Cambodia, has been increasing. I am truly glad to know after my arrival in January this year that there are many Cambodians who have travelled to Japan many times and know it very well,” he said.

One highlight of the fair was the introduction of a Khmer language version of the Japanese Official Visitor’s Guide, which aims to provide Cambodians with a tailored experience of Japan’s attractions. 

The fair also featured interactive displays where visitors could engage in traditional Japanese games and also try on traditional Japanese clothing.

Ueno suggested that anyone interested in experiencing Japanese culture should consider travelling there. He expressed his hopes that the fair would act as a catalyst for more people to seriously consider a trip to the country.

Doi Kei, JNTO director in Bangkok, noted her pleasure in hosting the fair in Cambodia, a country experiencing rapid economic growth and increasing interest from Japanese stakeholders. 

She hoped that the event would foster deeper understanding and stronger relationships between the two nations.

Kuch Panhasa, secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, heralded the role of the fair, particularly in the context of the 70th anniversary of Cambodia-Japan diplomatic relations. 

He expressed gratitude towards Japan for its comprehensive cooperation in various fields, including tourism. 

Panhasa pointed out the significant recovery of Cambodian tourism post-Covid-19, with impressive increases in international tourists, including Japanese visitors. 

He said the ministry’s efforts in promoting Cambodia as a prime destination for Japanese tourists were highlighted during the fair, alongside government policies aimed at easing travel between the two countries.

Moreover, bilateral cooperation and friendly exchanges can be strengthened through multilateral Council cooperation. The Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia also elected Japan as a member of the Executive Council of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for the mandate of 2023- 2027. 

According to Panhasa, in 2019, Cambodia welcomed 6.6 million international tourists, contributing over 12 per cent to the national GDP and creating 630,000 direct jobs. 

In 2022, Cambodia experienced a substantial tourism boost, welcoming 2.28 million international visitors, a 1059 per cent increase over 2021. Japanese tourists numbered 29,733, a notable surge of 1378.5 per cent.

“In the first ten months of this year, this positive trend continued, with 4.4 million international tourists arriving, a remarkable 179.7 per cent increase,” he said.

“During this period, 660,000 Japanese tourists visited – a jump of 235 per cent. This growth can be attributed to Prime Minister Hun Manet’s prioritisation of tourism as a key driver of local economic growth,” he added.

The tourism ministry is implementing policies for future tourism development, with a focus on the Domestic Tourism Movement 2021-2035, as well as master plans for Siem Reap, Mondulkiri, and Kep provinces.