More Tourist Arrivals to Cambodia

Tourist arrivals to Cambodia climbed 19% for the first three quarters of 2007 compared to the same period last year, and tourist arrivals are expected to reach two million in 2007 compared to 1.7 million tourist arrivals in 2006, according to the  Prime Minister Hun Sen who was speaking in one of the trade meetings in Cambodia recently.

The burgeoning tourist sector has injected new life into impoverished Cambodia, which is still recovering from decades of conflict.  The boom in visitors has brought with it new construction, as developers race to meet demand for hotels and resorts. Earlier this year the government approved plans for several high-end resorts to be built on the islands off of the country’s southern coast. Foreign airlines have been keen to take advantage of the rising number of tourists, with Japan Airlines (JAL) becoming the latest carrier to offer direct charter flights to Cambodia. For example, JAL will fly between three major Japanese cities and Siem Reap, the gateway to Cambodia’s famed Angkor temples.

New National Airline

The Cambodian government signed a joint venture agreement with two Indonesian companies to form a new national airline to tap the country’s growing tourism industry.  The new airline is expected to begin flying in 2008.

The new airline will be Cambodia’s national flag carrier, its first since tough competition and mismanagement forced Royal Air Cambodge to shut down over five years ago. Air travel to and from Cambodia is currently dominated by foreign-owned airlines.  The Cambodian government will hold a 51% share in the new venture and its partners 49%.

Foreign tourists allowed to hunt

Cambodia is considering laying on hunting safaris for well-heeled foreign tourists in its remote jungle clad northeast, to the consternation of green groups who say it could be a recipe for disaster.  A Spanish firm called Nsok Safaris had already drawn up plans for a five-star jungle camp to house hunters. A list of 30 mammals, birds and reptiles would be available to hunt in a 100,000-hectare forest reserve.

The area, in Mondulkiri and Rattanakiri provinces, is home to several indigenous hill tribes whose first main contact with the outside world was during the Vietnam War when their territory was crossed by the myriad paths of the Ho Chi Minh trail. The Agriculture Ministry’s Wildlife Protection Office said that allowing foreigners to pay to shoot game was far better than having poachers take it illegally. The money the govvernment nets will be invested in preserving the animals and forest. There are 30 approved animal species to preserve and the forest area is thought to be one of Southeast Asia’s last wildernesses and is home to wild elephants and tigers.

Environmental group WWF, which has been promoting wildlife conservation in Cambodia since 1998, said it was concerned about the plan, which has been in the pipeline for two years but which has remained shrouded in secrecy.  So far, Phnom Penh, which is often accused of allowing rampant illegal logging, appears oblivious to the concerns.

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