While the long-term effects of the Sept 11 attacks on the US and the military strikes that have followed are unknown, Cambodia’s future still lies with tourism, officials said Tuesday.
Speaking at the formal inauguration of a master’s degree program in tourism development to be offered at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, professors and several tourism officials said tourism will remain vital to the Cambodian economy.
“What has happened and still is happening since September might have changed the [tourism] outlook…in a measure we cannot foresee now,” said Matilde Callari Calli, a professor from the University of Bologna in Italy.
The master’s program, which has enrolled 23 students since it began in May, is designed to increase tourism expertise among Cambodians. With the help of instructors from the University of Bologna and the University of Technology in Sydney, the program will provide a “driving force to boost economic development,” said Minister of Cabinet Sok An, who is also the chairman of the National Tourism Authority of Cambodia. “Though Cambodia has the potential for tourism,” he said, “most of those areas have not yet been developed and managed properly.”
Prior to the attacks in the US, Cambodia’s tourism industry was enjoying a boom, with the number of foreign visitors doubling between 1999 and 2000. This year’s growth was on a similar path before the attacks. Cambodian tourism officials now expect a drop in visitors during the upcoming peak season.
But the Ministry of Tourism predicts the number of visitors in September will “not be a lot lower” compared to last year, said Nuth Nin Doeurn, secretary of state for the ministry. Travel agents have reported cancellations from the US. “This is happening all over the world, not just Cambodia,” he added
Official tourism figures for the month of September are not yet available, Nuth Nin Doeurn said.