SPECIAL ATF: China, the Driving Force behind Cambodia Tourism Growth

Kampot old residence of the French Governor is now a museum

Years are passing and news look the same for Cambodia tourism: during the recent ASEAN Travel Forum in Chiang Mai, the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism announced a new record year for Cambodia tourism industry. The Kingdom recorded over 5.6 million international arrivals. “We are on track to reach our target of seven million international arrivals by 2020, according to Seila Hul, Deputy Director General at Cambodia Ministry of Tourism.

The growing popularity is filled by two phenomenons. According to Mr. Hul, exposure in social media -particularly comments from celebrities such as singer Beyoncé or former football star David Beckham – both visited Cambodia last year- act as a strong promotional tool for Cambodia. But more seriously, the surge in tourism is also stimulated by the jump in total arrivals from Mainland China.

Cambodia extremely strong political and economic relations with the Asian giant brings obviously benefits to its tourism.

Seila Hul, Deputy General Director, Cambodia Ministry of Tourism

“We saw last year a growth of over 46% in total arrivals from China PRC. Chinese travellers now represent the largest inbound market for our country, with a share of 22% of all travellers. For the first time, Cambodia will have received over a million Chinese visitors in a one-year time frame”, added Seila Hul.

The multiplication of direct flights between China and Cambodia will continue to push tourism up in 2018. Although the risk exists that some areas of the Kingdom could be turned into Chinese ‘enclaves’ which could discourage other travellers…

To eventually counter a too strong ‘sinisation’ of Cambodia tourism, the government pushes travellers to explore other destinations. The promotion of ecotourism in Northeastern Cambodia and exclusive luxury islands around the coast will certainly help diversifying market sources. “The government has the vision to help tourism benefits to spread to all provinces and populations. This is why we now want to emphasize secondary destinations, beside Siem Reap/Angkor and Phnom Penh”, said Mr. Hul.

” For example we are speeding up infrastructure development across the country. Such as building a two-lane high quality road to the Northeast and looking at creating a new highway which will shorten travel time not only between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville but also along the entire coast. We are now constructing a ferry terminal in Kampot as well”, told Seila Hul.

They are also projects to highlight more Cambodia architectural heritage. The government recently decided to apply for UNESCO World Heritage Status to three colonial style cities- Battambang, Kampot and Kratie. ‘This would contribute to protect these historical towns but also raise awareness among international travellers”, highlighted the Deputy Director.

Top quality infrastructure is then a high priority for the government. Rail is being revived, new hotels are mushrooming all across the country while two greenfield airports are due to be constructed in Siem Reap and by the end of the next decade in Phnom Penh.

More details about thee development of tourism infrastructures will certainly be unveiled during the next Cambodia Travel Mart in Phnom Penh in October. An event which was hosted for the first time last year in Siem Reap and proved that Cambodia tourism is reaching maturity.