Monday, March 9, 2009

Keynote Address at the Closing of 2007 Tourism Stocktaking Conference and Direction Setting for 2008

5th March 2008, Chaktomuk Conference Hall

Your Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen,

Dear Participants!

Today, I am very delighted to participate with Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen in the Closing of 2007 Tourism Stocktaking Conference and Direction Setting for 2008.

After having listened to the two-days stock taking conference report of His Excellency, Minister of the Ministry of Tourism which shows the important outcome of the Ministry and its future work direction as well as the active participation in the discussion of the whole conference, on behalf of the Royal Government and on my own behalf, I would like to praise the successful outcomes and achievements made so far by the Ministry of Tourism.

The outcomes and other achievements obtained from the effort of developing the tourism sector are the real evidence of success in contributing to the implementation of the Royal Government’s Rectangular Strategy which focuses on promoting Economic Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency in public sector.

During the last decade or so, Cambodia has made many positive changes not only in terms of political and security aspects but also socio-economic aspect. The “Win-Win” policy that we have put in place has brought our people and the country with peace, national consolidation, and full unity by the end of 1998. Such political stability, peace, and security are the prerequisites for Cambodia to achieve socio-economic development in all walks of people’s life.

For instance, even though we face big challenges in the context of the regional and the global economy as well as natural disasters in the country, Cambodia’s economy remains dynamic and grew at rate of 9.4 % from 2000-2006. However, from 2004-2006, economy grew at a high rate at the average of 11.4% per annum, particularly in 2005 the growth rate was 13.5% and 10.8 % in 2006. Exchange rate was generally stable. Within 13 years from 1994-2007, inflation rate had been kept low under 5% per annum. International Reserve increased by seventeen fold from US $100 to US $1700 millions. In 2007, economic growth was 9.6% comparing to the prediction of 6.5%.

Base on this impressive economic growth rate, per capita income increased from US$288 in 2000 to US$513 in 2006 and to US$589 in 2007. Poverty was reduced from 47% in 1994 to 34% in 2004 and according to the current preliminary estimation, it reduces to 31% in 2007 based on a 1% per year of poverty reduction as targeted in CMDGs. Moreover, on the process of implementing the RCG’s reform programs and achievement in all sectors as well as a good prospect of oil and gas and mining sectors that is going to take place in the future, it will extend more favourable environment for ensuring sustainable growth, equitable distribution and poverty reduction.

The Open Sky policy and other active policies to ease and facilitate transportation, policy on offering Visa on Arrival, Visa K and E-Visa are showing off their attractiveness to tourists. Particularly, they have transformed Cambodia’s old images as killing field, land of war, land mines into a country with peace, political stability, security, safety, development and friendly people.

When people arrived in Cambodia and visited the Angkor, they always praise and eager to understand the cultural heritages which link to natural environment and historical parks along with mountains, rivers, lakes, beaches, valleys that have luxurious views, especially the eco-tourism sites that have the new potential for tourist attraction in the country and region.

The Open Sky Policy makes Siem Reap a first tourist destination in Cambodia after when they can arrange their visit trips to Phnom Penh, Beaches and Eco-tourism region in the North-Eastern and South-Eastern of the country. At the same time, the Royal Government is encouraging to have more direct flights to Siem Reap as well as to Phom Penh as there are a lot of tourism sites and views, especially the views of the Mekong River.

I would like to welcome and thank Japan Airlines (JAL) for launching frequent charter flight to Siem Reap. I would like to also welcome and thank Air Finland for organizing a charter flight every two weeks to Phnom Penh and the Livingston Company of Italy for proposing to have a permission to fly from Milan Malpensa-MXP to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh as charter flight with clear schedule. I would like to complement the Ministry of Tourism, the Secretariat for Civil Aviation and private sector for having good cooperation with one another to attract new flights to Cambodia and I encourage you to continue this cooperation to attract even more flights from internal airline companies to both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

At the same time, the Development of Kang Keng Airport in Sihanouk Ville is an important link between Siem Reap Angkor and the beach, which is the key factor for development of the Sihanouk Ville. Today, we can observe that there are many tourist cruises started to arrive with thousand of tourists per fleet. I agree with the proposal to build Koh Kong Airport and I advise the Secretariat for Civil Aviation to take immediate action with this work.

The Royal Government has been developing some main infrastructure such as road, water and electricity supply, telecommunication network etc. toward key tourism attraction places. This is a key determining factor of progress for Cambodia tourism sector. Presently, we could say that roads and bridges that connect to the border and national roads has been completely built and restored. Therefore, the priority of the Royal Government in the Fourth Legislature of the National Assembly in infrastructure is building roads in the provinces. Recently, we began to restore and build two-direction railways that were destroyed by the war. This is a national pride. Railways can ease the tourist’s travelling and less expensive.

Moreover, the Royal Government always support and encourage the development of tourism sector through facilitating travelling procedures and transportations for tourists within the regional framework. Recently, we have signed on the agreement of Single Visa between Cambodia and Thailand under the ACMECS framework, which is a leading factor to ease the transportation and can be used as a role model for the region to ease tourists as they don’t need to apply for a visa at many places. In other word, they can apply for a visa at one place to visit both Cambodia and Thailand. I believe that the Single Visa agreement of ACMECS would expend to be implemented between Cambodia-Vietnam, Cambodia-Malaysia, and Cambodia-Singapore in the future.

Moreover, the improvement in tourism supplies and services such as hotels, guest houses, restaurants, transports, tour agencies, tourism resorts and other places have shown the improvement in the quality of tourism services and products in line with Cambodia tourism policy to induce longer stay, more spending and return visit.

At the same time, we witnessed the increases in tourism investment in Siem Reap, Phom Penh, beaches, islands and other Eco-tourism sites. In the future, there will be a systematic connection of the four priority regions and it will transform Cambodia into a key destination country in the region.

On behalf of the Royal Government and myself, I would like to congratulate and express my appreciation for the arrival of 2 millions tourists to Cambodia that brought about US $1,400 millions of revenue for the nation contributing approximately 10% to GDP as well as creating around 300,000 jobs. At the same time, there are around 5 millions local tourists travelling around tourism sites all over the country and about 1 million travelling abroad. It shows that political stability, security and safety has been ensured 100 percent and Cambodian’s living standard has improved every day.

At the same time, I would also like to congratulate the development of the world tourism sector which has nearly 900 million tourists travelling globally, an increase of 6% compared to 2006; in which Asia-Pacific is the second largest destination after Europe that attracted 184.9 million tourists, an increase of 10.2%, accounting for 20.6% of the total number of tourists, and is on the rising trend. I would also like convey my congratulation on the progress of tourism sector in ASEAN, ASEAN+China, Japan, Korea, and ASEAN+India. According to the development of tourism sector in the above regions, Cambodia will be able to absorb more tourists through big regional markets such as China, Korea, and Japan etc.

I fully support and highly value the stocktaking report of the discussion and the sharing of recommendations and experiences raised in this conference in order to contribute to the sustainable development of tourism sector that will in turn contribute to poverty reduction as stated in the “Rectangular Strategy” of the RGC. Taking this opportunity, I would like to share some additional recommendations in the preparation of strategies and development mechanisms of tourism sector in 2008 as follows:

1 -The Ministry of Tourism must focus on the development and expansion of numerous tourist attractions across the country, starting from tourist concentration zones in Seam Reap-Angkor and link to the surrounding regions and to other potential tourist attractions such as Phnom Penh, coastal zones, eco-tourist attractions in the North-east region, dolphin zone on the Mekong River, eco-tourist attractions in the South-west region (Koh Kong Province), and the heritage-rich zones. We should push the study for the opening of a new tourist line from Seam Reap - Koh Ke - Preah Vihear to Phu Pagoda (Laos PDR). Chong Khneas and Western Baray regions should be developed well to accommodate the ASEAN Summit and ASEAN Tourism Forum in 2011.

2 – These potential zones must be systematically linked by all means of transport either by water, land, and air. Therefore, the construction of supporting infrastructure such as airports, bridges, national roads, roads to tourist attractions, clean water supply system, electricity, telecommunication, environmental protection system and waste management system are crucial for the development of the whole areas, and this challenge requires the Ministry of Public Work and Transport, Ministry of Rural Development, and the Tourism Development Committee in all provinces/cities to give priority to the construction of transport network liking major destinations to enable national and international tourists to visit tourist attractions countrywide easily.

3 – The Secretariat for Civil Aviation must push and give attention to the development of Sihanouk Ville Airport to make it operate safely and the development of Koh Kong Airport as the trend of eco-tourism will increase in the near future. At the same time, we must push the construction of Rattanakiri Airport, and the RGC has increased the fund for its construction and maintenance in order to start its operation no later than 2009.

4 – I support and agree with the suggestion that we have good roads but our international border gates lack necessary infrastructure to welcome tourists. We must join hands to transform our international border gates into well-equipped ones, especially at the offices, checkpoints, waiting rooms, exchange booths, information booths, parking lots, toilets, restaurants, and drink bars etc. We must make necessary effort to provide friendly services and supply accurate information to tourists. I fully support the plan to build road stations/rest areas in tourist resorts and along national roads to tourist destinations because this will become a new and complacent product for tourists and travellers.

5 – Regarding the marketing promotion: the Ministry of Tourism must prepare a market strategic plan and rapid promotion plan according to the spirit of the ASEAN Summit and ASEAN Tourism Ministerial Meeting by attracting Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Indian tourists because these four markets have numerous ASEAN-bound tourists, but the number of Cambodia-bound tourists still remains low.

At the same time, we must not abandon the European, American and other emerging tourist markets because we have many special tourism products, namely Angkor Temples, beaches, eco-tourism attractions in the North-east and South-west areas that are popular to tourists. In particular, Municipal Phnom Penh, is being developed as a clean city with nice view of Mekong River, tradition and culture, and people’s friendliness is also a major tourist attraction.

6 – we have already known that the revenue from tourism sector account for about 10% of the GDP, thus we must make every effort to distribute this revenue to our poor people. We must make all efforts to improve the people’s living standard in tourist areas as most of them earn very low income. The Ministry of Tourism must cooperate with related ministries/institutions, authorities, and the Tourism Development Committee in all provinces/cities to achieve this target.

7. To guide the management and development of tourism sector in an effective, qualified and sustainable fashion, require many more laws and legal standards. I would like to praise the Ministry of Tourism and the Council of Ministers for drafting laws and legal standards, and to encourage more efforts.

8. I would like to admire some cities-provinces through provincial-municipal development management mechanism for keeping natural and cultural resources to develop attractive tourist sites. We have more potential diversified cultural-natural tourism than our neighbouring countries if we pursue careful development we can create more new tourism products. For the present, it is widely known that Cambodia is worth visiting because of not just its incomparable Angkor Wat but also delicious food and warm hospitality of the people. Natural and cultural heritage exist universally and belong to everyone. Furthermore, these heritages must be preserved as they are today so that the people of our next generations can be excited with the beauty of these heritages and sustainably benefit from this business. Only careful and sustainable tourism development would generate permanent income for us and generations to come. The government will conduct study and take clear consideration on the balance of conservation and development because conservation must not hinder development and development must rigorously be studied in order to ensure preservation and conservation.

9. Poverty and economic leakages reductions: the Ministry of Tourism and provincial-cities Development Management Committee and authorities concerned must cooperatively implement poverty alleviation in a context of sustainable development. Formula that has been successfully and effectively implemented so far were community-based tourism and pro-poor tourism. Although the establishment of night market in the framework of “one village one product” contributed to poverty reduction, it needs further improvement. More attention must be paid to this work because it does not only improve the livelihood and reduce poverty incident of people but it also reduces economic leakages.

10. Climate change is a universal problem of the world which is related to the future of human being and the earth. But this problem is a new and complicated topic that need deep understanding and gradual and appropriate measures. Climate change which causes global warming is also partly caused by tourism, apart from the carbon dioxide emission from airplanes, especially the long-distance ones. This complex challenge need to be discussed in order to take coordinating measure aiming at ensuring world economic development and preventing global warming.

It is over one month from now to the Khmer New Year, I would like to advise the Ministry of Tourism provincial-municipal Development Management Committee, relevant institutions, authorities in charged to coordinate with one another to ensure that our people as well as international guests can come and visit, enjoy with happiness, safety, security and dignity. Some potential tourism sites must be timely developed and arranged.

I am of the view that the above-mentioned recommendations are just part of leading and managing the tourism sector. I hope you’re your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen and all private and public institutions concerned will jointly develop the Cambodian tourism sector with quality, sustainability and effectiveness and transform Cambodia into an attractive target of cultural and natural tourism in the region and the world.

Before ending, I would like to with Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen 5 Gems of Buddhist Blessings. May I now announce the Closing of 2007 Tourism Stocktaking Conference and Direction Setting for 2008 of the Ministry of Tourism.


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