Cambodia aims to double the number of Chinese tourists coming to the Southeast Asian country to 2 million by 2020, Tourism Minister Thong Khon said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the second National Forum on "China Ready for Cambodia Tourism," the minister said Cambodia welcomed 3.5 million foreign tourists in the first eight months of 2017, up 11.8 percent year-on-year, among whom were 742,586 Chinese tourists, up 44 percent.
"Following the forecast, in 2017, Cambodia will receive approximately 1 million Chinese tourists and increase to at least 2 million in 2020," he told the forum, which was attended by some 600 officials and representatives of tourism-related companies in the two countries.
The minister said China is the largest source of tourists to Cambodia and he attributed the steady growth of Chinese tourists to Cambodia to the comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation that the two countries forged in 2010.
"Following this good and comprehensive strategic cooperation between the two countries, it has led to an increase of the number of Chinese investors as well as Chinese tourists to Cambodia every year," Thong Khon said.
Cambodia launched last year a "China Ready" strategy with the aim of attracting more Chinese tourists to the country.
The strategy listed steps to be taken by tourism authorities to facilitate visits by Chinese tourists, such as providing Chinese signs and documents for visa processing, encouraging local use of the Chinese currency and the Chinese language, and ensuring that food and accommodation facilities are suited to Chinese tastes.
Yang Xiuping, secretary-general of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-China Center, said tourism cooperation between China and Cambodia has maintained a good momentum of rapid development in recent years and lauded Cambodia for its richness in tourism resources.
"Angkor Wat, the World Heritage Site, has become a popular destination for Chinese tourists," she said during the forum's opening ceremony. "This year, more than 1 million Chinese tourists are expected to visit Cambodia."
She said currently, 12 Chinese airlines are operating 155 direct flights each week to Cambodia.
Zhang Hailin, a professor of Guilin Tourism University in southwestern China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, said to attract more Chinese tourists, Cambodia needed to train more Chinese-speaking staff and promote its tourist destinations in Chinese language on websites and social media.
"Chinese people always adhere to their culture and traditions, so the show of respect for their culture is very important," he told the forum, adding that Chinese tourists also like doing shopping and buying souvenirs.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said she believed that Cambodia would be able to achieve the target of 2 million Chinese tourists in 2020 thanks to Cambodia-China niceties, Cambodia's richness of cultural heritage sites, and better air route connectivity between the two countries.
"Chinese tourism market is a potential market for Cambodian tourism because Chinese people are rich and they are keen to spend their holidays abroad," she said.
Tourism is one of the four sectors supporting the Cambodian economy. Last year, the country received 5 million foreign tourists, up 5 percent year-on-year, and generated total revenue of about 3.4 billion U.S. dollars, or 13 percent of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), according to government figures.
Cambodia has three world heritage sites - Angkor archeological park in northwestern Siem Reap province, Preah Vihear Temple in northwestern Preah Vihear province, and Sambor Prei Kuk archeological site in central Kampong Thom province.
Besides, it has a pristine coastline stretching in the length of 450 km in four southwestern provinces of Koh Kong, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Kep.