Cambodia will host a global conference on sports tourism in Siem Reap by the end of this year under the joint auspices of the Ministry of Tourism and the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia.
A spectacular uptake in sports-related tourism over the past two years has prompted the Kingdom to refine its strategy in the promotion of sports tourism as a viable growth sector.
The December 1, 2013, International Angkor Wat Half Marathon touched an all-time high in overseas participation of more than 4,000 runners providing a clear message that Cambodia can be turned into a prominent travel hotspot through sport.
“The conference will bring together field experts from the International Olympic Committee, the Olympic Council of Asia and the World Tourism Organisation apart from countries which are in the forefront of this fast growing sector,” the secretary-general of the NOCC Vath Chamroeun, who is also an advisor to the Tourism Ministry, told the Post yesterday.
“It is a unique opportunity for Cambodia to get a world perspective on how best a fusion of sports and tourism could be channelled to enhance visitor experience” he said.
“We have breathtaking mountains, exotic beach lines and a sound organisational structure in place. So we will enhance the tourist experiences by promoting sea adventure sports, mountain biking, cross country motor rallies, beach games. There is whole range of exciting possibilities,” Vath Chamroeun said.
Both the policymakers and sport administrators in Cambodia have now realised the immense value of these new breed of tourists and are well encouraged by the ever growing interest in international charity runs, now numbering four in a calendar year.
While the Angkor Wat half marathon continues to be the Blue Riband event, the unveiling of Bokor Mountain half marathon last year has added an exciting new element. Both the Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh half marathons have seen participation numbers significantly rise in the last two years.
As a spectacular prelude to the global conference, Cambodia is gearing up for the country’s first full marathon in September this year, adding Siem Reap to the illustrious list of cities around the world staging the 42 kilometre event, which is one of the most coveted disciplines in the Olympics.
The IOC in conjunction with the World Tourism Organisation sponsored the first World Conference on sport and tourism in Barcelona, Spain, way back in 2001.
South Africa organised a similar conference just before hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2010.
Many countries in the world are actively pursuing sports tourism as a powerful medium of economic development for cities that can offer them and sustenance for those going through tough times.
Germany is a shining example of great success in this sphere of sports tourism, and it has now dawned on Cambodia that every major sports event that the country can put together will also mean it’s a huge tourist attraction.