The Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen wants just 0.001 percent of China’s total population of 1.3 billion people to visit Cambodia every year.
“This amounts to about 1.3 million Chinese tourists arriving in the country,” he is reported to have said at a university graduation ceremony.
He said that the target should be easy to reach, “as we already nearly have close to 800,000 Chinese tourists visiting us yearly”.
The PM’s remarks were timed to coincide with China’s President Xi Jinping’s two-day visit to the Kingdom.
Human Resource Challenges
Try Chhiv, deputy director-general at the Cambodia Ministry of Tourism, is reported to have said that the country has a “shortage of skilled labour and resources related to tourism”.
He said there were approximately 620,000 Cambodians working in the tourism sector, while the country handled 4.8m international arrivals last year. Cambodia’s total population is just over 15m people.
“If we had between 800,000 to one million Cambodians trained in hospitality, we would be able to handle future growth,” he added.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, Cambodia needs at least 8,000 skilled tour guides to serve the tourism sector as the number of foreign tourist arrivals increase year-on-year.
In June, Cambodia established the China Ready Center to cater to growth in Chinese inbound tourism. Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said: “This center will facilitate research on the requirements and demands of Chinese tourists as well as strengthen the Chinese language and cultural skills of Cambodian tourist operators.”
PM Hun Sen acknowledged that Cambodia still faced a lack of tour guides who were fluent in Chinese. “For Chinese food here, it is okay. What is most difficult [for Chinese tourists] is the limited Chinese spoken by Cambodian tour guides,” he said.
Cambodian Minister of Environment Say Samal is reported to have said that the Kingdom needs more Chinese investments in eco-tourism to help the country protect its environment and natural resources. He also urged Chinese tourists to consider visiting eco-tourist sites.
“We’re now turning our national parks and wildlife sanctuaries into tourist destinations as we want national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to be part of our social lives, so people can go for camping trips, barbecues, spending time in resorts, bushwalking, trail riding and water rafting,” he said.
According to government figures, the country has 45 protected parks and wildlife sanctuaries covering a total area of more than 5.9 million hectares.
China and Cambodia established a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2010. The two countries saw their bilateral trade jump to $4.4 billion in 2015.
Chinese ambassador to Cambodia, Xiong Bo, told CCTV: “I think Cambodia has entered a crucial period of economic development. After 20 years of rapid development and accumulation, Cambodia has braced for economic take-off. Besides its own efforts, it also needs outside assistance. China can play an important role. Chinese enterprises have unique advantages in infrastructure construction. The two sides have great cooperative potential.”
The ambassador said China’s direct investment in Cambodia totaled more than $12 billion by the end of June. The two countries also are speeding up their integration of China’s Belt and Road Initiative with Cambodia’s “Quadrangle Strategy.”