With the new year now upon us, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Tuesday that Cambodia reached its goal of attracting 2 million foreign tourists in 2007.
“We have reached our target this year,” Thong Khon said of the number of tourist arrivals. He added that his ministry expects to once again see tourist numbers grow by 20 to 25 percent in 2008.
Official, final tallies of tourist arrivals for 2007 are not yet available.
Thong Khon attributed the increase in the number of tourists to a host of factors, including improvements in security, new airline routes and the construction of new hotels.
As in previous years, more tourists came from South Korea than any other country, followed by Japan, China and the US, he said.
“We have daily flights from Korea landing at the Phnom Penh airport,” he said.
Thong Khon said that New Year’s Eve celebrations on Monday proved to be particularly attractive to tourists—foreign and domestic—especially in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap town and Sihanoukville.
Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak said that so many visitors came to celebrate the New Year on the coast that the municipality’s 3,000 hotel rooms were not enough to accommodate them all. As a result, hundreds of Cambodians visiting the town slept on beaches.
In 2007, he added, Sihanoukville drew around 100,000 more tourists than in 2006—a 30 percent increase.
Siem Reap Provincial Governor Sou Phirin said that large crowds gathered in the provincial capital Monday night to watch fireworks displays put on by the provincial authority and some of the larger hotels.
Sou Phirin added that a recently opened night market near the town’s Phsar Chas proved to be particularly popular with foreign visitors.
“There were plenty of foreign tourists who traveled to the night market last night—it was a great celebration of New Year’s Eve,” he said Tuesday.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said that a New Year’s concert co-organized by the municipality and the Cambodiana Hotel proved to be a big draw, as was a concert at Wat Phnom, which he said drew at least 3,000 people.
(Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin)