Tourism Overview

The Cambodian tourism has major potential for creating jobs, earning foreign exchange, generating incomes and augmenting government revenues. In the short and medium terms, the major centres of tourist destination were perceived as being Phnom Penh, Siem Reap (Angkor) and the Sihanoukville coastal region and, in the long term, with some of the more remote parts of the country being opened up for ecotourism and special interests.

Cambodia has a wide range of potential tourism assets: architectural and cultural sites of world renown, wildlife, and scenic beauty (both inland and coastal), although internal security problems-alberit infrequent and only in isolated pockets-currently creates adverse publicity abroad. However, and security aside, few of the potential tourism resources and opportunities have been exploited. Only Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have facilities and services suitable for mainstream international tourism, with limitation even in Siem Reap. The coastal resort facilities, thriving in the late 1960s and early 1970s, have been largely destroyed and are only now beginning to be redeveloped. Elsewhere facilities are very poor.Nevertheless, with burgeoning regional tourism and a large Cambodian diaspora overseas, and provided the necessary investment eventuates, there is reason for optimism. Cambodia has been divided into eight tourism development areas:

1-The north/north east, notably the provinces of Rattanakiri, Mondulkiri and parts of Kratie and Stung Treng, for special interest and nature tourism for limited numbers; 
2-The North, notably the western provinces of Preah Vihear and parts of Kompong Thom, Kratie, Stung Treng and Siem Reap, for special interest and nature tourism for limited numbers; 
3-The middle plains, notably the provinces of Bateay Meanchey, Battambang, Kompong Chhnang and parts of Kompong Thom, Siem Reap and Pursat, for nature and river-based tourism as an extension to visits to Angkor; 
4-The Upper Mekong Delta, notably the provinces of Kandal, Kompong Cham, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Takeo, Kompong Speau and a part of Kampot, for special interest river-based tourism for limited numbers; 
5-The South west, notably the provinces of Koh Kong and Pursat, an area with excellent potential for trekking, safari centres and coastal recreation; 
6-The Eastern Coastal Area, notably Sihanoukville and Kampot, with excellent potential particularly for regional and domestic tourism. The contract for a major resort/ casino and airport upgrading project has been awarded, and an international class hotel is under negotiation; 
7-Siem Reap and the Angkor archaeological Park, already world renowned but, subject to regulated and zoning, in need of improved facilities; and 
8-Phnom Penh and its surroundings, with considerable tourism appeal and potential for further development, should also benefit from growth as a business centre.

While much work has been done to improve airport and road infrastructure as well as to continue with the restoration of Angkor Wat and other temples, all these regions will still need dramatically-improved infrastructure if they are to reach their full potential as tourist centres: with the improvement of airports (especially Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap), roads, waterways, power, water supply, sanitation, and health facilities as part of the Royal Government’s contribution to tourism development, as well as investment in hotels, transportation and recreational facilities from the private sector. Moreover, an improvement in training facilities, in the regulation of tourist agencies/ operators, and in the quality of cultural attractions and tourism services, although beginning, will also become crucial. Slowness in making the required improvements to any of these will inevitably delay the realization of the country’s tourism potential and its economic impact. 
In the medium term, the Government’s focus for tourism development will be on developing Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville because it recognizes that resources will not be available to develop suitable facilities in most of the other regions for some years. The Ministry of Tourism pursued its marketing plan, the priorities for which have already been set, and expend considerable effort both on tourist investment promotion and public awareness programs in the approach to the “ Year of Tourism” in 1997. It will also consolidate its employment information system and data-gathering exercise; continue to refine work force and training needs; undertake an economic impact study of tourism; prepare a development plan; develop and improve the Government’s capacity to manage tourism effectively; and formulate a human resource development policy and strategy for tourism.