'Government indifference' has earned the capital the second-worst rating in National Geographic's 2008 destination survey
Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Phnom Penh’s Independece Monument bedecked with coloured lights is a key tourist attraction.
AN annual National Geographic survey has rated Phnom Penh the "second-worst" city in the world to visit, putting its shortcomings down to "government indifference".
The 2008 "Places Rated" Destination Stewardship survey, announced this week by National Geographic Society's Center for Sustainable Destinations, based its ranking on how well cities endured the pressures of mass tourism, the ravages of nature and the onslaught of global development.
According to the iconic magazine, the charm of Phnom Penh has been "lost to uncontrolled urban growth and the outright greed of land speculation", one of the judges said, adding it was a "very sad story" its astute colonial urban planning had now all but disappeared.
Govt dismisses result
Kousoum Saroeth, deputy director of the Cambodian Board of Tourism, dismissed the survey, saying that development has an overall "good impact" on tourism.
"Right now we have many projects that are helping organise tourism events in Cambodia," he said Tuesday, adding that tourism was one of the big earners in Cambodia.
The survey, which was judged by an independent panel of 280 experts in travel-related fields from around the globe, asked participants to scrutinise 109 historic places - the theme of the 2008 survey.
They were also asked to evaluate the qualities that make a destination unique.
Earlier this month, architects and urban planners warned the government that major commercial development projects, such as the filling-in of Boeung Kak lake, were tarnishing the once architecturally-lauded city. But City Hall has insisted all plans were sustainable.
Phnom Penh will sit just above Central City, in the US state of Colorado, when the full list of cities is featured in the November/December issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. It was labelled worst because, judges claim, casinos stole its charm.