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Environment and national pride key to tourism
PHNOM PENH – Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for the expansion of tourist attractions loved by Cambodians and for the industry to make the most of the environment.
These should be sources of revenue, rather than logging or shooting wild animals, he said. He urged the Ministry of Tourism and relevant ministries to expand tourist areas of which the country is proud.
The Prime Minister saw positives in organizing and creating new destinations in the provinces as core areas to attract tourists.
"Now they can connect tourism to the territory,” he said on April 20 at the inauguration of the upgraded flood prevention and canal-drainage systems in Phnom Penh.
“This should be strengthened and expanded everywhere to get people involved in tourism which is linked to the territory, the love of the environment, and the use of the environment to make money rather than logging or shooting animals, which can destroy the environment,” he said.
Tourist attractions associated with love of the country are being expanded in many areas, such as Battambang province. This province does not have many temples but it can attract many tourists with newly created attractions during Khmer New Year.
"Although Battambang has no Angkor and many temples, new tourist areas are being expanded in many places,” Hun Sen said. “The new areas can boost the attractiveness and connect tourism with love of the country.”
Local authorities had also gone out to welcome tourists and provide security, which created another level of warmth and welcome for people, he added.
He said waste management had improved because people were more aware and more involved in sanitation and garbage collection companies had increased their attention to the issue.
Local authorities had made hygiene their main goal to curb waste, which had led to less garbage in tourist areas.
Battambang provincial tourism department director Ouch Um Phynisara expressed enthusiasm for the growth of tourism, saying that rural tourism could make Battambang the number one province for tourists.
He said congestion for people traveling from one district to another is worse than ever, while local products are still limited and cannot support the demands of tourists.
Some of the visitors went hungry because big restaurants were closed during the New Year, while there were only a few vendors. Some visitors went camping and some slept on mats. Some tourists did not have a place to stay, so they walked around all night.
“We still lack tourism services. Rural tourism is very important for us to increase the growth of tourism as tourists only visited the city in the past,” Um Phynisara said.
Domestic tourism is booming, he said. Tourists like agro-tourism and ecotourism, and Battambang has a lot of potentials. So the provincial administration encouraged more investment.
“We discuss with those who own a good location and land to create more tourist destinations,” said Um Phynisara.
“We also encourage restaurants to serve local food to national and international visitors. The food in our province tastes stronger than in other provinces. This is the difference that we have.”
Battambang province has about 100 tourist destinations with themes such as culture, history, eco-tourism and agro-tourism.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, more than five million national and domestic international tourists visited various areas during the Khmer New Year.
Battambang province attracted the most tourists during New Year, followed by Kampong Cham province while Siem Reap province came in third with the most visitors on New Year's Day.
Chhay Sivlin president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents said that because of the increasing new local productions and tourist services, more Cambodian tourists will be attracted.
However, Sivlin suggested creation of more local products and services to meet tourists' demands and passions because they like to visit new places and enjoy updated services.
"Battambang and Kampong Cham provinces are growing tourist products and services, especially having new events and ecotourism. That's why they got a lot of people visiting there during Khmer New Year," Sivlin said.
Ministry of Tourism spokesman Chuk Chumno could not reach for comment at press time.
Choeun Sreynoy contributed to the story