The World Tourism Organization conference at Siem Reap was told tourism in Cambodia
is growing so fast that its collective income could soon be equal to that of the
garment industry, which currently generates about 35 percent of the gross national
Tourism produced 12 percent of the gross national product in 2003 and the Ministry
of Tourism believes this will rise dramatically by 2008, driven mainly by the lure
of the Angkor temples near Siem Reap.
However, not everyone shares this optimistic outlook.
Moeung Sonn, President of the National Association of Tourism Enterprises, said the
number of tourists would not reach what the ministry predicted because neighboring
countries such as Vietnam and Thailand promote themselves more than Cambodia and
they are much cheaper to visit.
"They are very strong competition for Cambodia," said Moeung Sonn. "More
of the income from tourism in Cambodia goes to private foreign companies than to
the national budget or local economy."
Sonn said the average tourist comes to Cambodia for two or three days and spends
about $500. Ninety percent of them visit the Angkor temples. There were many other
tourism areas in the country besides the Angkor zone, but they lacked the infrastructural
services necessary to attract and support visitors.
Thong Khon, Secretary of State for the Tourism Ministry, said: "The tourism
income could equal the garment industry by 2008. National tourism revenue was 12
percent of gross domestic product in 2003."
Veng Sereyvuth, Minister of Tourism, said approximately 57 percent of international
visitor arrivals came to the Angkor Wat temple in 2003 and in 2004; the actual number
for 2004 was expected to be 570,000. "By 2008 we estimate the number will reach
1.3 million and by 2010, 1.9 million," he said.
Sereyvuth said revenue collected from tourism in Siem Reap was about $100 million
in 2003 and was forecast at $240 million in 2006 and $600 million in 2010. Most tourists
were from Japan and Korea.
Sereyvuth said Cambodia was promoting cultural and natural tourism and did not welcome
sex tourism. "We do not want the money from sex tourism because it is against
Thong Khon said in 2003 Siem Reap had 3,500 international standard hotel rooms; this
number would double during 2005.
Khon said not only foreign tourist numbers had increased, but also Cambodian tourists
because the roads were better. He said the tourism industry could generate 100,000
jobs nationally, of which 50,000 would be in Siem Reap.
Francesco Frangialli, secretary-general of the World Tourism Organization, said the
Asian region was the heart of the WTO's concerns, given its great economic dynamism,
its rapid growth in tourism, the need to make such growth sustainable, and also due
to the handicaps that some Asian nations faced on their long road to development.
"We are convinced that tourism will continue to grow rapidly in this region
and that this growth can be directed in such a way so as to contribute more significantly
to resolving the most serious of these handicaps, namely poverty."
Frangialli said WTO had provided technical assistance to the Cambodian government
on several occasions on issues such as capacity development in tourism and review
of investment incentives in tourism.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, in a keynote speech, encouraged hotel owners and operators
to use local products, which would help reduce poverty.
Hun Sen said tourism had been crucial to Cambodia's growth. Between 1998 and 2002,
the sector grew steadily by 25-to-30 percent annually. Unfortunately in 2003 Cambodia's
tourism sector was adversely affected by the outbreak of SARS in the region, though
there were no SARS infections in Cambodia itself.
He said that due to the SARS outbreak in the region in 2003, visitor arrivals to
Cambodia fell by 10 percent, which was lower that the fall across ASEAN of an average
of 14 percent. In Cambodia, in the first four months of 2004 international arrivals
had increased by 29.62 percent compared to 2003.
Hun Sen said the Cambodian government recognized that physical infrastructure, including
roads, water, electricity, telecommunications and other services, were crucial to
significant and sustained growth not only for the tourism sector but also the economy
as a whole.
The Ministry of Tourism and the World Tourism Organization conducted the first seminar
on cultural tourism and poverty alleviation, to examine ways in which cultural tourism
can be channeled effectively to achieve poverty alleviation in Asia; to identify
policies that government could adopt to increase the country's share of the cultural
tourism market and increase its contribution to poverty alleviation; and to identify
the role that local authorities can play in cultural tourism management to ensure
that socio-economic benefits are fairly distributed among the local poor.
Through cultural tourism it is hoped that the high growth rate projected and the
higher expenditure profile of cultural tourists will help to generate economic growth,
investment and employment, and consequently make an important contribution to poverty
Tith Chantha, deputy director general at the Ministry of Tourism, said tourism was
a driving force for other sector development, including increasing the resident population.
It was estimated that the Siem Reap population would be around one million by 2010,
and about 25 percent of them would work in the tourism industry and related business.