Monday, November 24, 2008

Hun Sen: Tourism Boom in Cambodia not Because of Exhibition

By Soy Sophea

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on March 5 recommended that the Ministry of
Tourism not spend money on an exhibition abroad which would waste hundreds of thousands of US dollars.

Making his remarks at the closing of a two-day annual tourism assessment forum at the Chaktomuk Theatre in Phnom Penh last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that he had
rejected a Tourism Ministry proposal which recommended spending more than one hundred thousand $US to participate in a tourism exhibition in Italy over the next few months.

“I said “NO” to the useless expenditure over the exhibition as it wastes our money,” the Premier Hun Sen said. The Prime Minister recommended that the way to enhance tourism
was to organize warm hospitality for the arrivals, and to ensure that everything was priced reasonably.

“If you don’t have national security and safety, no one will visit your [country],” he said. “However, you also have to have warm and well-prepared hospitality.”

The prime minister also pointed out the importance of the visa on arrival at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap International Airports and other border checkpoints with the neighboring nations—Thailand, Vietnam and Laos PDR.

Moeun Son, who is a chairman with the Tourism Enterprise of Cambodia, agreed with Hun Sen’s recommendation. However, he also voiced concern over increasing prices, which are much greater than for other tourist traps in the region. He said it costs double to buy a package tour to Cambodia compared to Malaysia or Thailand.

“Cambodia’s tour package price is much too expensive,” he said. “Tourists spend a lot of money on airport taxes before their holiday has even begun.”

Moeun Son, who also runs his own tourism business, said that big investors in the tourism industry in Cambodia have been considering raising the price of airport taxes. “They do not so much care for Cambodia’s future tourism,” he added. “They want to earn a lot of money now without any concern for future visitors.”

The Cambodian Premier also appealed to all involved in the tourism business to spend less on promotions and pay more attention to their services and hospitality.

Son Vichet, a ticket sales officer for a local tour company, said that even though arrivals had increased by more than two million, his ticket sales remained at about 10 to 15 per day. He said that the government should control prices for tourism services if they wanted to develop a sustainable tourist industry in the kingdom. “The Government should involve itself in prices, especially airport tax and transportation fee charges,” he said.

According to Tourism Ministry statistics, Cambodia’s tourism industry continued to grow in 2007, with 2,015,128 international visitors—an 18.5 percent increase compared to the 2006 figure of 1,700,041. Siem Reap’s Angkor Wat arrivals increased with 1,120,586 visitors last year representing a 55.61 percent, while Phnom Penh and other destinations
saw 894,542 more visitors, a 44.39 percent increase over previous years.

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