Tourism Ministry Launches New Website

After roughly two years of research, writing and coding, the Tourism Ministry has launched a comprehensive website to help Cambodia-bound travelers plan their stays, their shopping and even their meals.

Ministry officials said yesterday that by offering practical details on transportation, health issues and accommodation, www.tourismcambodia.org will attract tourists while Mot.gov.kh, which is currently being revamped, will continue to offer e-visa services and host public records.

“The ministry has established this new website to disseminate information about tourism sites in Cambodia,” said Kong Sopheareak, director of statistics department, adding that the .org domain name was chosen over the official .gov.kh to make the site more tourist friendly.

According to Mr Sopheareak, the ministry hopes that publicity can help the tourism sector grow, on which Cambodia is deeply reliant.

The World Travel and Tourism report, which was released in March and authored by the heads of the world’s 100 largest tourist organizations, predicted that in 2010 Cambodia’s tourism sector would generate 18.9 percent of the countries GDP, or $2.13 billion.

So Visothear, the director of the ministry’s marketing and promotion department, said yesterday that government officials had formally requested that the privately run site Tourismcambodia.com stop touting itself as “the official Site for Tourism of Cambodia.” Mr Visothear said it was important that web-surfers not confuse the older website with the new government portal.

To create a high-quality site, the Tourism Ministry hired Phnom Penh-based communications firm Red Dot, whose clientele includes MobiTel and Caltex. Red Dot Managing Director John Seow said yesterday that the ministry had approached him in 2008, asking for something user-friendly, apolitical and updateable.

“We had help from the ministry writing the content,” said Mr Seow, adding that the ministry was continuing to pay a 17-person team to keep the site consistently up-to-date.

According to Mr Seow, the website took so long to construct because of the level of detail it offers.

The thoroughness shows. The website offers searchable databases of 2,211 restaurants, 872 hotels and 981 leisure activities—all sorted by category (pizzerias, bungalow, cooking classes) as well as province.

Aside from being detailed, the site is in several places quite frank about the inconveniences a traveler to Cambodia might face.

“Cambodia is not a planned country, but it promises to give you the excitement of adventurous travel. The roads are rugged and almost nothing is for certain,” reads the “Traveler Advice” section.

Advice offered by the site contained under the heading “Do’s and Don’t in Cambodia” tells visitors they should “always respond to a smile with a smile” but are admonished, “don’t be critical of conditions” and “don’t converse about anything related to politics.”

Ho Vandy, co-chairman of a government-private sector working group on tourism policy, said yesterday that he believed the new site would be a boon for visitors and the travel sector. But he added, “I’d suggest the ministry add more information for visitors.”

According to a ministry news release, the website will be officially unveiled at the Asean Tourism Forum, to be held at the NagaWorld hotel and casino on Tuesday.

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