Despite officials revising down an earlier forecast that Cambodia would receive 5 million tourists this year, the Tourism Ministry estimates that the country will welcome as many as 8 million tourists in 2020, the ministry’s spokesman said Wednesday.
A report posted to the ministry’s website this week shows that 1,983,723 tourists visited Cambodia in the first five months of the year, up from 1,900,914 during the same period last year—a 4.4 percent increase.
However, Tith Chantha, the Tourism Ministry’s spokesman, said that after examining the growth rate, it was now believed that Cambodia would receive just 4.8 million tourists this year, instead of the projected 5 million.
Mr. Chantha said the lower expectations were due to the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in South Korea and poor economic performance in Russia and the eurozone.
He said the ministry planned to improve tourism services to help boost tourist numbers in the coming years, and estimated that the country would receive between 7 million and 8 million foreign holidaymakers in 2020.
“The most important thing to do is to produce high-quality human resources, as we need at least 1 million skilled laborers in the tourism sector to welcome the 7 to 8 million tourists we are expecting in 2020,” Mr. Chantha said.
Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said it was “possible” that the ministry could reach its 2020 target, adding that this could create millions of jobs.
“By the end of this year, there will be Asean integration, and it will attract more people to
come visit Cambodia,” he said, adding that this would allow tourists to travel more freely in the
Mr. Kim Eang said, however, that the poor quality of infrastructure in Cambodia, and the possibility that accommodation options would not keep up with demand, remained concerns.
“If we look from here to 2020, we may have a lack of hotel rooms,” he said, adding that Cambodia would also need to offer more long-haul and connecting flights to reach the projected growth in tourist numbers.