Last year, nearly 120,000 Malaysian tourists visited Cambodia, up from about 100,000 in 2011. Looked at the other way, the exchange is not equal. Malaysia doesn’t top the list of Cambodian vacation spots. Though 50,000 Cambodians visited the country last year, many went for jobs or to seek medical services. In a recent interview, Malaysia’s Minister of Tourism and Culture, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, sat down with the Post’s Chhay Channyda in Kuala Lumpur to ask what ways officials can attract more visitors from the Kingdom.
You showed a presentation which went over the top twenty countries whose citizens visit Malaysia for tourism. Cambodia didn’t make the list. How will you attract more Cambodians?
We want tourists to come from all over the world. Obviously, countries that provide the highest number of tourists will be our neighbours: Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. There’s more of a distance from Cambodia, and you need to travel by plane. But that’s not so much the main problem. It’s likely that not all Cambodians know about Malaysia.
We hope Cambodians will be more interested in Malaysia and they will come to our country. As I said, we want tourists to come from everywhere and we see that there is a small number of Cambodians coming.
What kinds of destinations and attractions do you want to highlight?
We want to show all of Malaysia, but there are certain states in Malaysia that have close historical links to Cambodia, especially in Kelantan state. Cham Muslims in Cambodia have links to Muslims in Kelantan. In fact, the religious book in Cambodia read by the Cham people, it’s actually in the Malay language. We do hope that with the close links between Cambodia and Kelantan, more Cambodians will come to Malaysia and to see the close links we have.
The ambassador here sees strong potential to promote good relations between Cambodia and Malaysia. That’s the reason also. I think because we don’t know each other that well, we must make efforts to bring both countries closer.
How many times have you been to Cambodia?
Many times. I’d say more times than you’ve been here. I love to see Cambodia. I’ve been to Siem Reap, to see Angkor Wat there. I’ve been to Phnom Penh, to Kampong Cham province. Many places.
What would you say about tourism development in Cambodia?
There is so much to see in Cambodia. Your capital still has got many traditional buildings. I think you must make sure that you conserve these. These are the other things that tourists want to see, not only now but also in the future.
How will Asean Economic Integration help tourism?
What it means is that Asean citizens have better access to each other’s countries. In the area where there is a need, we can employ citizens from ASEAN countries to come to our countries to work and vice versa.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity