Cambodia will begin to manage its booming tourism industry more closely by the end of the year with new regulations for tour guides, hotel operators, travel agents and even karaoke parlors, So Mara, secretary-general of the National Authority of Tourism said Wednesday.
“Although there is no plan yet for the legislation, we will begin to regulate the entire tourism industry,” So Mara told a tourism conference. “In order to increase tourism here, we will have some measures for those who violate the law. [We want] to make Cambodia more attractive, which is the reason for the law.”
Regulating the tourism industry and planning for the upcoming 2003 Asean Tourism Forum were the main issues covered as the two-day conference opened at the Hotel Le Royal.
Tourism officials called on all members of the Cambodian tourism industry to cooperate and get ready for the Asean Tourism Forum, which Cambodia will host for the first time, So Mara said. Cambodia will prepare for the Asean conference by improving Cambodia’s infrastructure and tourism services.
“We will implement plans to improve the airport and roads,” So Mara said. He added that the tourism ministry will also improve tourism services, such as hotels, tour guides, and travel agency services.
“We propose to maintain a 30 percent increase in tourist arrivals each year,” So Mara said, repeating a statement made earlier in the day by Minister of Tourism Veng Sereyvuth.
The number of people visiting Cambodia continues to rise. Figures from the Ministry of Tourism show that from January 2001 to March 2001, 117,645 tourists flew into Phnom Penh or Siem Reap airports, which is a 28 percent increase from the first quarter in 2000.
In 2000, a total of 351,660 tourists flew into Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, which was a 24 percent increase over the 262,907 visitors in 1999.
Officials attribute the steady increase to increased political stability, an improved infrastructure and the new open skies policy that allows direct international flights to Siem Reap.
According to officials, tourists spent approximately $156 million in Cambodia during 2000, making it one of the country’s most lucrative industries.