Jan 30, 2014

Cambodia’s tourism anchored to Angkor

More than 90% of tourists visiting Cambodia will end up at Siem Reap’s world heritage site Angkor Wat, despite efforts to open other areas of the country to tourism.

Officials attending the Asean Tourism Forum admitted that efforts to convince tour operators to include trips to other areas namely the Northeast and the coastal region around Sihanaoukeville have not met with much success.
They also conceded that UNESCO had warned authorities that Angkor Wat had reached its capacity ceiling and world heritage environment was at risk.
“The solution would be to move tourists to other heritage sites some of which pre-date Angkor Wat, promote coastal resorts, open tourism in the northeast particularly close to the Mekong River and destinations in southern Laos close to the border with Cambodia.”
But most visitors want to see the iconic Angkor Wat, which drives a runway expansion in hotel constructions and other facilities that could ultimately overwhelm heritage sites with mass tourism.
Tourist targets continue to be ambitious; 4.5 million visits in 2014 and 5 million in 2015 and climbing to 7.5 million by 2020.

While Cambodia positions itself as a cultural destination it has more casinos than any other ASEAN nation with 38 perched close to international borders and just one in the capital Phnom Penh. Many of the country’s overland tourist arrivals are travellers from neighbouring countries visiting casinos close to international borders.
The policy is to push the gambling business to borders well away from the main population areas. They are rarely promoted and officials say the single casino in Phnom Penh was allowed to stay open to offer entertainment for tourists.
Northeast Cambodia is the hot destination according to tourism officials. They want to push the Mekong Discovery Trail that highlights the endangered river dolphins. The route from there goes north into Laos to Pakse in Champasak province.
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