Travel Planners Meet
By: Moul Vongs ( June, 2001 Volume 1 No.2 )

The number of tourists arriving in Cambodia could increase by as much as 25 to 30 percent each year over the next two years at least, officials and tourism experts at an annual Cambodian Ministry of Tourism summit said recently. The Annual Meeting on Tourism Achievement 2001, held May 16th 17th at Hotel Le Royal brought together about 400 tourism officials from both national and provincial levels, as well as private sector tourism representatives. Participants used the meeting to review the achievement of the year 2000, Cambodia's best year for tourism yet and to set new goals for the coming two years. Cambodia is poised to host the upcoming ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF), scheduled for January 2003 and the year 2003 is also designated "Visit Cambodia Year 2003".

During workshop sessions, participants enthusiastically discussed perceived problems in the industry and potential solutions. Participants were especially optimistic about Cambodia's potential in the areas of cultural and eco-tourism. All agreed that improvements in political stability had given the Kingdom's image a major boost and that Cambodia was now widely recognized as safe, secure tourist destination. Ministry of Tourism figures show Cambodia received about half a million foreign tourists last year, an increase of about 27 percent over 1999 figures. The number of visitors arriving by air rose by 34 percent. The first quarter of this year saw the total number of tourists entering rise by about 40 percent from the corresponding period last year.

The Asia Pacific Region is increasingly becoming choice destinations for tourists. According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), as cited by the Ministry of Tourism, a total number of 698 million tourists had traveled around the world in the year 2000. This marks an increased 7.4 percent over the previous year. The overall revenue generated by this sector was US$475 billion. The Asia and Pacific Region received a total 111.7 million visitors in the year 2000, representing an increase of 14.5 percent. Minister for Tourism, HE Veng Sereyvuth, told delegates at the meeting that Cambodia's tourism sector will play an important role in the country's economic development. He said that this sector creates jobs for some 100,000 people and generated about US$200 million in revenue last year. The minister added that, based on the positive prevailing trend, an expectation of an increase in arrivals of up to 30 percent was modest. The Minister also spoke of various other developments related to the tourism sector, including infrastructure, the national policy on tourism, quality services and the preparation for the ASEAN Tourism Forum and Visit Cambodia Year 2003 programs.

Infrastructure Development: The government last year pulled out all stops in upgrading infrastructure, thereby aiding the tourist industry significantly. Many segments on the network of roads leading to different resort sites across the country are currently undergoing improvement. Once completed, visitors will find it more convenient to visit the other tourist destinations within the country besides the Angkor Temple Complex. Currently about one million local tourists visit various tourist destinations across the country. A great majority of these tourists travel by road. National Policy: Participants at the meeting unanimously supported the idea of a sustainable individual tourism development program in addition to the national tourism master plan in line with the National Policy. It is suggested that such programs include model resorts or temples. A genocidal museum or center can also be considered an historic attraction suitable for such programs. The meeting also urged the government to pay due attention to the development of airport and seaport facilities on the coast of Preah Sihanoukville (Kompong Som). Airport facilities should also be extended and improved for the northeastern regions, especially in the Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces, which are ideal for eco-tourism. Quality Service:

All concerned ministries and the private sector should be good partners in the development of tourism. Together they can enhance quality in all direct and supporting service sectors, as these are critical to the image and prestige of the country. Other important aspects such as marketing and advertising were also emphasized. It was also suggested to develop a pool of better-qualified personnel through the creation of a national tourism school and the formulation of a set of relevant management and administration by-laws. ATF and Visit Cambodia Year 2003: The hosting of the forthcoming ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) opens a new page of significance in the development of tourism in Cambodia. This sets the pace and will stimulate more active participation for all concerned in the country. Visit Cambodia Year 2003 is another big event and its ultimate success will be the icing on the cake for the industry. Such meetings are healthy boosts to strengthen the fast recovering tourist industry and the implementations of ideas developed at such sessions will definitely add sparkle and attract more visitors to enjoy the glories of this wonderful country.