Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

Cambodia turns to experiences to revive waning interest from Western visitor markets

Hopes are being pinned on Cambodia’s growing collection of immersive in-destination experiences to revitalise the Western market, which is currently in decline.

According to the latest available figures from the Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism (MoT), tourism arrivals rose by 11.2 per cent in 1H2019. However, this was predominantly driven by Asian markets

In contrast, Western markets have shown a downward trajectory, with tourist arrival numbers from Europe tumbling by 5.6 per cent, Australia by 7.7 per cent and the US by 0.8 per cent. And tour operators said they are feeling the pinch.

At the third Cambodia Travel Mart in Phnom Penh last week, VLK Royal Tourism’s product manager Mak Kun told TTG Asia that the company is now pushing eco- and community-based tourism products in a bid to re-stimulate the Western markets.

Itinerary options include seeing the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in Kratie, homestay options on Mekong River islands and in Kampong Speu, and touring the emerging remote provinces of Stung Treng and Rattanakiri.

“We hope that this will help the European markets to reconsider Cambodia (as a tourist destination) as they like such activities,” he said.

Prak Vuthy, MoT’s director of overseas tourism marketing and promotion department, said that the ministry has highlighted Stung Treng, Rattanakiri, Mondulkiri and Kratie as provinces to promote as prime ecotourism destinations.

Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office’s executive director, Jens Thraenhart, added: “Cambodia is full of authentic lifetime experiences and that is what needs to be developed.”

Hem Sophoan, a tour and sales manager at Paramount Angkor Travel & Tours, said that the dip in longhaul arrivals from Western markets has prompted the company to shake up its business model. “Our focus has always been on the US, European and Australian markets, but now we are looking more worldwide,” he said.

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