Cambodia Gearing Up for Tourism Forum

Cambodian officials are preparing for Asean tourism ministers and more than 1,300 visitors to arrive in Phnom Penh in late January for the 2003 Asean Tourism Forum, which Cambo­dia is hosting for the first time.

The preparations, which in­clude increasing security, finding adequate accommodations and transportation and setting up booths for the 1,350 visitors, are “not a problem,” Thong Khon, secretary of state for the Minister of Tourism, said on Tuesday.

“We are preparing as we did for the [November] Asean Sum­mit,” he said.

While many participants for the Asean Tourism Forum will start arriving in Phnom Penh on Jan 17, top officials from Asean countries and dialogue partner countries—China, Japan, South Korea and India—are scheduled to come to Cambodia on Jan 23 and will likely stay until Jan 28, the last day of the conference.

The official opening of the forum is Jan 20.

The 10 Asean tourism ministers will discuss how all Asean countries can properly implement and manage the Asean Tourism Agreement, which was signed by Asean heads of state during November’s summit, Thong Khon said.

The tourism pact aims to strengthen security within the region, increase transportation routes, establish joint marketing and promotion of tourism, and loosen visa restrictions for travelers from Asean countries.

The Asean ministers are also scheduled to release a statement against the trafficking and abuse of women and children in the area, he said. Some Asean countries, such as Thailand and Cambodia, have become known globally as havens for sex tourists.

The Asean Tourism Forum will also give businessmen and women from all Asean countries the chance to exchange their views and experiences, Thong Khon said.

“It is important for people to get to know us and talk about us,” Thong Khon said. “One visitor who comes to Cambodia will be able to tell 10 of their friends about Cambodia.”

To attract potential tourists to Cambodia and the region, the member countries need to protect natural and cultural re­sources, and educate people on how to provide tourism services efficiently, he said.

Sam Heang, president of the Siem Reap Hotels Association, said the event will likely bring more jobs to people. He said the association does not as yet have a booth reserved at the venue, where they could sell their package tours and distribute information about hotels in Cambodia.

Another official in the tourism industry, Apex Travel Agency General Manager Sathal Myura, said that the Cambodian tourism industry will probably only benefit 10 percent to 20 percent from hosting the meeting while foreign airlines and travel organizations will gain the rest.

An estimated 41 million international visitors arrived in Asean countries in 2001—an increase from 29.6 million in 1995, according to previously published statistics.



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