Cambodia’s negative reputation and poor infrastructure are some of the factors that stifle the growth of tourism, Prince Norodom Ranariddh said Friday during a seminar called “Developing Tourism for Alleviating Poverty.”
“Many national and international news agencies ask me about the Khmer Rouge trial, not tourism,” the prince said. “Foreign TV shows talk about the land mines surrounding Angkor Wat.”
The purpose of the workshop, which was organized by the government and the tourism industry, was to collect ideas to develop the sector, which is key to boosting economic development.
Prince Ranariddh said the factional fighting of July 1997 also continues to hurt the country’s image. “People talk about the lack of security and instability in Cambodia,” he said. “Many investors were willing to invest in infrastructure, but the bad influence of the July event prevented them from eyeing Cambodia.”
Tourism lately has been on the rise, increasing by 13 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year. The figures have nearly returned to the previous peak levels of 1996. But employees in the hospitality industry still lack skills and airports need to be upgraded, the prince said. “The tour guides are not capable to lead the tourist,” Prince Ranariddh said.
Earlier this week, Tourism Minister Veng Sereyvuth said he would soon officially request the government to change its one international airport policy and allow more direct flights to Siem Reap from Asian cities.
Although Prince Ranariddh said earlier that he favored the idea, on Friday he said the proposal would detract tourists from coming to Phnom Penh.
“You could imagine how many tourists come from Bangkok to Siem Reap and how many come from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap,” he said.
Ninety percent of tourists say they visit Thailand or Vietnam before coming to Siem Reap, according to a survey by the Tourism Ministry.
Moeung Sonn, chairman of the seminar, said although the temples in Siem Reap are the most popular tourist site in Cambodia, he stressed that Phnom Penh must not be ignored. “The capital city is the business and industry center that captures the interest of travelers, businessmen, servicemen and official visitors,” Moeung Sonn said. (Additional reporting by Im Sophea and Sokhan Serey Vethia)