Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Violent image still poses problem in Hong Kong

Violent image still poses problem in Hong Kong

Violent image still poses problem in Hong Kong

Despite the Minister of Tourism's upbeat projections for the country's tourism

industry, travel agents in Hong Kong say Cambodia still conjures up images of

horror and war for most people.

"Package Tour of Killing Fields" and

"Horror Prison" reads an advertisement in a leading daily Hong Kong newspaper. A

trip to Angkor Wat is billed as an optional extra but costs more.

Jacqui

Donaldson, manager of promotions and public relations at Dragonair, an airline

which operates two direct flights a week to Phnom Penh, says visitors fear they

will be shot at in Cambodia.

"People are terrified of going there. They

have no idea of what else to expect," says Donaldson, adding that Dragonair,

which uses A320 airbuses, has only had a quarter of its seats booked since the

service started on Aug 3 last year.

Hong Kong travel agent William Lau,

who sells a Cambodia package trip through Marvel Tours, has never been to

Cambodia does not know any Cambodians, and believes he is unable to paint a more

positive picture of Cambodia for travelers.

But, Peter Chan, country

manager of Dragonair, believes the situation will improve. All flights over

Easter are full and they have reduced the cost of a return ticket from $701 to

$450, to compete with Cambodia International Airlines' fare of $403.

"People aren't thinking so much now about Khmer Rouge and security," he

claims. "These days they're thinking more about Angkor Wat."

Nevertheless, discouraging articles continue to appear in Hong Kong

newspapers. The Eastern Express, Hong Kong's newest English-language newspaper,

carried a front page story on Phnom Penh in its feature section last week. A

half-page photograph shows a dark street with soldiers armed with assault rifles

arresting a frightened motorcyclist.

"Cambodia is losing the battle

against crime and corruption," the story reads, after giving details about car

thefts with gunmen bursting into compounds demanding car keys. The story tells

of travelers on the Mekong river being robbed by pirates, and French tourists

being attacked by armed bandits after being dragged from their car. The new

government, the story claims, "is rotten to the core".

But the country's

bad image could soon change if Tan Mau Ieng succeeds in his ambition to promote

his homeland. Tan, one of the few Cambodians living in Hong Kong, runs a travel

agency. He hopes more travelers will put Cambodia on their itinerary if he can

become the main Cambodian Tourist Office and Consulate. "I can do propaganda for

the country and encourage tourists."

He has already approached the Vice

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Uch Kiman, with his proposal. He also is liaising

with the country's new airline, Royal Air Cambodge, in a plan to become their

official representative in Hong Kong.

His agency, located in Prat

Avenue, close to other travel agencies in busy Nathan Road in Kowloon, is

currently known as Vietnam Travel Development Company. With Indochina as its

focus, it will shortly be renamed. Tan took it over last year at a cost of HK$1

million, and already has clients such as Princess Bopha Devy, who passes through

Hong Kong en route to Beijing to visit her father, King Sihanouk.

"Hong

Kongers think that it's still war in Cambodia," admits Tan, who left Cambodia

for France in 1970. He returned to Asia a year ago. "But Chinese businesses here

are interested in Cambodia," he says, "particularly since China has such a good

relationship with the King," says Tan who speaks fluent Cantonese, Mandarin,

French, Khmer, English and Chow Tchou, a dialect.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Stop Russia sanctions

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said sanctions against Russia as a result of its military offensive in Ukraine should be stopped as they have produced no tangible results, and predicted that a global food crisis would ensue in 2023 as a consequence. Speaking to an audience at

  • Chinese tourists 2.0 – Coming anytime soon?

    Regional tourism is grappling with the absence of the prolific travellers and big spenders – the Chinese tourists. Cambodia, which has welcomed over two million Chinese tourists before Covid-19, is reeling from the economic loss despite being the first to fully open last November ‘To put

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when

  • Siem Reap’s Angkor Botanical Garden opens

    The Angkor Botanical Garden was officially opened on May 19 with free entry for both local and international visitors for the first six weeks. The garden was established on a nearly 15ha plot of land in Siem Reap. “After the first six weeks, Angkor Botanical Garden

  • Pub Street on the cards for Battambang

    The Battambang Provincial Authority has announced that it is considering establishing a Pub Street in the area around the heritage buildings in Battambang town in a bid to attract more tourists. Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou told The Post that the establishment of a Pub

  • Hun Sen: Don’t react to hostility

    Prime Minister Hun Sen urged tolerance and thanked members of the Cambodian diaspora for not reacting to the hostility on display towards him by others while he was in the US to attend the May 12-13 ASEAN-US Special Summit in Washington, DC. In an audio