Car Rally Lifts Tourism, Trade

The Asean-India touring car rally snaking through Southeast Asia will prove a boon to tourism and investment in Cambodia, Ministry of Tourism and Indian Embassy officials said at a news conference Tuesday.

Having already invested $40,000 into the event—and with an undisclosed amount still to be spent—the Ministry of Tourism is banking on the tour’s 8,000-km, three-day-long leg in Cambodia to boost In­dian interest in the area, Sec­retary of State Thong Khon said.

“We will definitely benefit from tourism and economic growth after the car rally event…. We believe that the car rally will bring Cambodia to the Asean and Indian market,” Thong Khon said.

VK Sharma, first secretary of the Indian Embassy in Phnom Penh, said the rally’s passage through Cambodia on Saturday through Tuesday will spur Indian interest in the area.

“My Indian people don’t know at all about Angkor Wat,” Sharma said. “So I think Cambodia should provide more information for In­dian people.”

Though approximately 5 million Indians traveled to Asean countries in 2003, only 7,000 stopped in Cambodia, according to Tourism Ministry figures.

To showcase local culture during the rally, the government will host an evening on Monday at the Bayon Temple for the rally teams and entourages, featuring dinner and a cultural performance at the illuminated temple. About 250 people are expected.

The ministry’s $40,000 has been spent on costs associated with the rally, including the welcome ceremony, the Angkor performance and airline tickets to India for the 12 Cambodian drivers, said Undersecretary of State So Mara. The total cost will not be known until the rally’s end, Thong Khon said.

The Interior Ministry arranged free visas for rally participants and waived import taxes on the cars, Thong Khon said. Apsara Authority will provide free tickets for the delegates to visit Angkor.

The rally, which includes drivers from all 10 Asean countries, will cross the Lao border into Vietnam today, according to the official schedule. It was launched Nov 23 in India.


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