The city of Phnom Penh has launched an English-language Web site to re-introduce itself to the world and, officials hope, attract tourists and investment.
“Phnom Penh is safe enough to visit now,” said Chea Sophara, the city’s governor. “We want people to know what we are doing to develop the city.”
The Web site, at www.phnompenh.gov.kh, offers maps, photos and information about the city and its history, including perhaps more data on the structure of the city’s bureaucracy than the average visitor will require.
But there is plenty to interest a casual browser, such as lists of festivals and holidays, markets and pagodas, and a series of photos comparing Phnom Penh landmarks early in the last century with the way they look today.
Touch Vannarith, chief of the city’s administration office, said most other countries in the region are already active on the Internet, and are generally more plugged-in than Cambodia.
“I notice that I don’t even see Cambodia’s weather on CNN, but we see Bangkok and Hanoi,” he said.
A successful Web site can have a huge impact, says Roland Eng, Cambodia’s ambassador to the US. After the embassy launched its Web site in 1999, visa applications rose from about 30 per week to as much as 100 per day.
Moek Chenda, general manager for ABC Computer, says there are a number of ways Phnom Penh officials can improve and expand the new Web site.
For example, he said, the site could include detailed listings of hotels and guesthouses, as well as information on how to book rooms; data for investors on the city’s security services, investment and development opportunities, and links to relevant laws.
It’s clear that people are already using the Internet to find out more about Cambodia.
Tith Chantha, deputy director of the Ministry of Tourism’s marketing promotion department, said nearly one in three visitors researches Cambodia on the Internet.
He said that last year, the ministry surveyed 1,000 tourists at Pochentong Airport and discovered that 70 percent learned about Cambodia through traditional means, such as tour agencies, books, or embassies. The other 30 percent used the Internet.
Tith Chantha noted that tourism in 2000 was up 34 percent over 1999. And the Internet, he said, costs less than any other form of promotion.
People all over the world can sit at their computers and call up information about Phnom Penh at any time of the day, he said.