Chinese characters could soon grace the signs of Phnom Penh’s major roads if the government gives the final go-ahead to a draft five-year plan to attract 1.3 million Chinese tourists to Cambodia by 2018.
The Tourism Ministry released the draft plan Wednesday at a seminar in Phnom Penh attended mostly by hospitality industry students and employees.
Besides the Chinese road signs, the 35-page plan proposes a beefed-up marketing campaign, more flights, additional Chinese-speaking tour guides and officially designated China Towns in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville packed with Chinese temples, shops, hotels, restaurants and massage parlors.
With 334,000 arrivals in 2012, China ranked third behind Vietnam and South Korea but grew faster year-on-year, at 35 percent, according to Tourism Ministry figures.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the pace at which Chinese tourist arrivals was growing could even see the country jump a spot in just a few more years.
“I think that maybe [by] 2015, maybe Chinese come to number two,” he said.
And besides their growing number, they also spend more, hence the plan. “Chinese spend more because the middle class is growing up now,” he said.
Mr. Khon said connecting the two countries with more flights would be key to hitting the 2018 target. “When we push our promotional activity to the Chinese market and we have more connectivity and we are ready [with] the quality products to welcome the Chinese tourists, we will have more Chinese tourists come to Cambodia,” he said.
Mr. Khon said he hoped to have the plan approved soon but had no details on which road signs would get translated into Chinese or where exactly Phnom Penh’s pending China Town would go.
“The China Town must be developed, but we don’t know the location…maybe in Daun Penh [district],” he said. “But we try to find the best location. We will talk with the private sector.”
Tourism is one of the main pillars of the country’s economy. More than 3.5 million people visited Cambodia last year, up 24 percent from the year before.