The number of tourists visiting Cambodia last year increased 25 percent to almost
half a million, said Minister of Tourism Veng Sereyvuth. The latest batch of healthy
figures, he added, showed that the world's tourists were waking up to Cambodia as
a travel destination.
"The market is more and more confident in the Cambodian tourism industry,"
he said. "Our services are improving and there's been a lot of good promotion
Fears of a September 11 terrorist attack- related decline in tourist numbers proved
unfounded, with only a temporary drop in numbers recorded during September and October.
Sereyvuth said the physical distance of the region from the US had insulated Cambodia
from some of the economic fallout.
More than half of the 467,000 tourists visiting the country last year were from the
Asia-Pacific region; 20 percent were from Europe and 14 percent from the US.
The Ministry of Tourism (MoT) changed its policy after September 11 and decided to
market the country more towards regional tourists as well as those from Europe. Sereyvuth
said initial results from that strategy were "very satisfying".
He said latest figures showed that a quarter of all tourists flew directly to Siem
Reap, half landed first in Phnom Penh, while the rest arrived in Cambodia by land
or sea routes.
Sereyvuth suggested Cambodia could attract as many as 800,000 tourists by 2003, but
said the MoT was aiming for one million tourists to "keep the industry focused".
Tackling the country's image as a strife torn country was at the top of the MoT's
agenda, as was increasing the number of direct flights to Cambodia from large Asian
markets such as Japan and Korea.
He also wanted to see the number of destinations within Cambodia increase and an
improvement in the country's infrastructure. These, he said, were essential to maintain
strong growth in tourism for the coming years.