A conference of tourism ministers from Asean countries and China, Japan and Korea has issued a declaration of revitalization for tourism in Asia after a year hard-hit by terrorism and severe acute respiratory syndrome, according to Tourism Ministry Secretary of State Thong Khon.
“We have discussed ways…to sell the region to tourists again, and we all plan to fight terrorism,” Thong Khon said Monday upon returning from the one-day meeting in Beijing.
Terrorism featured prominently in the conference’s discussions, with the ministers renewing their countries’ commitments to exchange anti-terrorism intelligence. Those commitments were part of the Asean Tourism Agreement signed by Asean leaders at the Phnom Penh summit last November.
However, no specific anti-terrorism strategies have been developed yet, Thong Khon said.
Last week’s bombing of a Marriot hotel in Jakarta, in which 11 were killed and more than 150 were injured, is sparking new fears for an important sector of Cambodia’s economy.
But Thong Khon went on to say that because the region is again safe from SARS, the Ministry of Tourism hopes to see a jump in visitors to Cambodia.
The ministry will soon call on the private sector to help lure more domestic and international travelers, Thong Khon said. This will consist largely of offering lower rates and assembling package deals that will include transportation and accommodation expenses.
Cambodia profited from about 800,000 visitors in 2002, many of whom were drawn by Siem Reap province’s Angkor temples. Despite earlier predictions of 1 million visitors in 2003, Thong Khon said his ministry is now hoping only to match last year’s numbers.
The Ministry of Tourism has counted 311,948 visitor arrivals for the first six months of the year, the majority of whom are entering the country through the newly renovated Phnom Penh International Airport.