Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday said the government was expecting tourism-sector job numbers to hit 1 million by 2020 to accommodate the more than 7 million visitors expected to visit Cambodia per year by the end of the decade.
Speaking at an event in Phnom Penh to mark National Clean City Day, he said keeping tourist areas clean and safe—and well supplied with local meat and produce—would be key to hitting those targets.
“We have a vision of a green belt, which means that we want tourist areas to plant vegetables and feed animals as much as possible to supply hotels…and so on,” he said. “I think tourists will not risk visiting any city, town, area or resort that has a bad smell.”
Mr. Hun Sen also noted the government’s efforts to combat Cambodia’s reputation as a destination for sex tourists and drug users, including a recently launched campaign to round up drug dealers.
Tourism is one of the country’s main economic drivers, employing about 620,000 people last year to serve some 5.4 million foreign tourists, an increase of about 5 percent from 2015, according to the prime minister.
At the projected rate of growth, he said revenues from the tourist sector could grow from the $3.4 billion raked in last year to $5 billion by 2020.
Ho Vandy, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Tourism Alliance, said the numbers the prime minister put forward would be easy to achieve.
“It will not be difficult to reach 7 million foreign tourists because we have a good political situation locally and with other countries, and the economy is growing in the country, in the region and around the world,” he said.
During his speech, Mr. Hun Sen also touted what he called the country’s stable situation as another tourist draw, insisting on the need to maintain peace “at any price.”
The government has long used that argument to suppress peaceful demonstrations of dissent against the premier’s 32-year reign, often with violence. Local rights group Licadho currently counts 27 political prisoners in Cambodia’s prisons, including several opposition party figures, in the lead-up to critical commune and national elections this year and next.