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Tourism potential seen in Beautiful Bay status

Cambodia is counting on a designation bestowed on its coast to increase investment in its beachfront, as statistics show an overall double digit percentage increase in visits to the Kingdom over the first four months of 2011.

Photo by: Ellie Dyer

A man walks through the surf at Ochheuteal beach in Sihanoukville town in February. Ministry officials hope a title recognising the coast’s beauty will increase tourism.

The Kingdom’s 450 kilometre coastline between Koh Kong and Kep would become the second largest tourist draw behind the Angkor temples, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Tuesday, as he returned from 

Senegal with official recognition that Cambodia’s coast had joined the Most Beautiful Bays in the World club.

The ministry is seeking private investment from developers, aiming to raise incomes through increased tourist visits.

“If the beaches are developed well, our people will earn more money from tourists,” he said.

Along with having an attractive natural environment, becoming a member of the club requires the country to show potential for economic development and have the means of protecting its natural resources, Thong Khon said.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Working Group for the six Greater Mekong Subregion countries, including Cambodia, met in Pakse last week, aiming to promote and develop the tourism industry in the region.

The overall performance of GMS tourism has been impressive over the past decade, but its contribution to economic growth and heritage protection is held back by several constraints, an Asian Development Bank press release said.

“Some of these constraints include limited institutional capacity and human resources to plan, develop and manage socially responsible tourism and safeguard heritage assets,” said Chong Chi Nai, ADB Country Director to Lao PDR Resident Mission. “GMS countries will need to make substantial investments in human resources and infrastructure to sustain tourism growth and manage its negative impacts.”  

More than a million foreign visitors arrived in Cambodia in the first four months of the year, an increase of 13.2 percent compared to the same period last year, according to statistics from the Ministry of Tourism.

Vietnam was the largest overall source in foreign arrivals, and increased 13 percent year-over-year. 

South Korean and Chinese tourist numbers were number two and three, with increases of 22.5 percent and 34.4 percent respectively, the statistics show.

Thai tourist numbers, however, fell 35.5 percent in the first four months of the year, according to the statistics. Fighting has broken out on the Cambodia-Thai border in February and again in April.

“We’re not stopping them [Thai tourists] from coming,” Thong Khon said. “We welcome all international visitors to the Kingdom.”

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