Gov’t Searching for Right Words To Lure Tourists

It’s just a short flight to “Incredible India!” and only a bus trip to “Amazing Thailand.” And though some of the continent’s 36 other countries might feel left out, we have “Malaysia, Truly Asia.”

But what snappy slogan and dynamic punctuation can Cambodia use to lure tourists?

That’s the question at the Ministry of Tourism, which is searching for a catchy new tourism slogan.

Officials are busy compiling a list of suggestions including “Cambodia-More Than Your Expectation,” “Cambodia-Beyond Angkor,” and “Cambodia-Diversity Asia.”

“They must be attractive words that will encourage foreign tourists,” said Pak Sokhom, director of the ministry’s marketing and promotion department.

It’s just “a few words but it has to be meaningful,” Pak Sokhom said, adding that a phrase will be chosen “as soon as possible.”

Cambodia’s official tourist slogan changes every year or so and the winning slogan might be part of an international campaign, he said.

Cambodia is still branding itself for tourism and the catch phrase needs to inform foreigners that the country has a lot more to offer than some might think.

“It should raise expectations,” Pak Sokhom said.

And while the actual slogan may be a few words, the industry it will represent is massive-and growing.

More than two million people visited Cambodia in 2007 and tourist arrivals have increased by 20 percent or more annually for the last four years.

Tourism revenue amounted to about $1.4 billion in 2007, according to the Tourism Ministry.

The country’s current slogan, which is featured on the ministry’s official tourism guide, is, “Cambodia – A Newest Destination in Asia,” said Pak Sokhom, adding that the promotional campaigns are produced in-house by the ministry.

When representing a billion-dollar-plus industry, some experts believe the government should call in professional advertising firms to research ideas rather than simply brainstorming phrases among ministry and industry officials.

Potential slogans will be discussed at a meeting Friday between business leaders and the Ministry of Tourism, said Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents.

Putting forth a few ideas of his own: “Exploring Cambodia,” and “Exotic Cambodia,” Ho Vandy said it wasn’t necessary to hire a professional advertising firm to help with ideas, as the ministry gets ample input already.

“The private sector is also giving their ideas about this,” he said.

According to a news release from the International Finance Corporation, the private sector wing of the World Bank, Friday’s meeting of the Government-Private Sector Forum’s tourism group will include a marketing expert to discuss an entire tourism branding strategy, including slogans.

Patrick Murray, general manager of the Cambodiana Hotel in Phnom Penh, said that having a good slogan is extremely important, specifically noting the catchy “Malaysia, Truly Asia” tag line.

“It is something that reinforces an entire campaign,” he said, noting that Malaysia has approximately 20 million tourists a year, compared to Cambodia’s 2 million.

“That’s 18 million if you get it right,” Murray said.

Drawing on the expertise of an advertising agency and someone to check grammar in a slogan would help the campaign, he added.

“The country is moving forward and there’s certainly potential in tourism, and I think they know that.”

To be effective, a slogan needs clear objectives and concepts behind it, such as expanding eco-tours or other forms of tourism, said Laurent Notin, director of the market research at Indochina Research in Phnom Penh.

“They look simple but the process to create that simple slogan is very complicated,” Notin said. “It sounds like they pulled these out of a hat,” he added.

Some of the so far suggested slogans don’t send a clear message about Cambodia or it tourism potential, Notin said.

“‘Cambodia-Beyond Angkor.’ That means other than Angkor. But what is there exactly?” he asked. “Cambodia-More Than Your Expectation” also doesn’t work, he said.

“What does that mean? What are tourism expectations?”

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