Tourists visit the Wat Phnom historic site in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Jan. 29, 2019. (Xinhua/Phearum)
by Mao Pengfei, Nguon Sovan
PHNOM PENH, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Chinese tourists drove Cambodia's tourism growth last year, with some 1.9 million Chinese holidaymakers visiting the kingdom, up from 1.2 million one year earlier, Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon said in recent interview with Xinhua.
A total of 6.2 million international visitors traveled to the Southeast Asian country in 2018, up 11 percent from 5.6 million in the year before, he said.
"Chinese tourists had sustained our tourism growth last year," Khon told Xinhua.
The two countries set 2019 as the China-Cambodia culture and tourism year. The minister said the huge influx of Chinese tourists to Cambodia was the result of excellent ties and proximity between Cambodia and China, Cambodia's political stability and attractive tourism sites, and increasing direct flights between the two countries.
Direct flights connecting the two countries have remarkably increased from 110 flights per week in 2016 to 404 flights per week now, according to a government report.
"Chinese tourists are the biggest spenders of all foreign tourists to Cambodia," Khon said, adding that they had importantly contributed to developing Cambodia's economy and creating jobs for Cambodians.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, which represents nearly 300 tour and travel companies, said most of Chinese tourists visited the famed Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province and the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk.
"A Chinese tourist averagely stay for five days in Cambodia, spending about 600 U.S. dollars for air fares and accommodation costs," she told Xinhua. "This amount excludes their spending for doing shopping."
Sivlin, who is also president and chief executive officer of CSL Travel & Tours, said Chinese tourists like doing shopping and purchasing high-end luxury goods.
File Photo of Chausay Tevada temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Xinhua/Mao Pengfei)
Khon said Cambodia is expected to attract 3 million Chinese holidaymakers in 2020 and up to 5 million in 2025.
"Thanks to our close ties, our attractive tourism sites, and increasing direct flights between our two countries, I believe that we can achieve these targets," the minister said.
In order to lure more Chinese travelers, he said the ministry would continue to encourage the owners of hotels, restaurants and resorts to use three languages -Khmer, English and Chinese - on their billboards or promotional leaflets.
Kong Sopheareak, director of the statistics and tourism information department at the Ministry of Tourism, said to prepare for the growing number of Chinese tourists, the kingdom needs to invest more in hotels, restaurants and transportation services.
"Also, we need to invest more in the development of human resources in tourism sector, especially in the training of Chinese speaking tour guides," he told Xinhua.
File Photo of Ta Keo temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Xinhua/Mao Pengfei)
SPRING FESTIVAL BOOM
Khon said the Ministry of Tourism has never collected the figures of Chinese tourists visiting Cambodia during the Chinese New Year, but he has observed that every year, a lot of Chinese tourists have visited the kingdom on the occasion.
"I think it is not different from previous years, a large number of Chinese tourists are expected to visit Cambodia during the upcoming Chinese New Year," he said.
The Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival falls on Feb. 5 this year.
Sopheareak said the demand for hotels, restaurant and transportation services was very high on the occasion. "As I know, most of the hotels, particularly in Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk have been booked," he said.
Sivlin said hotels at popular tourist sites are always fully booked during the Spring Festival season.
"I think the number of Chinese tourists to Cambodia during the Spring Festival holiday is about five times higher than that of normal days," she said.
Ho Vandy, president of World Express Tour and Travel Company, believe that the number of Chinese tourists visiting Cambodia during the Spring Festival this year will be more than that of last year.
"As Chinese people are rich, they are keen to travel overseas on their holidays, and Cambodia is one of their most favorable destinations," he said.