PHNOM PENH, May 16 (Xinhua) -- China has overtaken Vietnam to become the 1st largest source of tourists to Cambodia, a Cambodian Tourism Ministry official said on Tuesday.
Kong Sopheareak, director of the Tourism Ministry's statistics and planning department, said that about 270,000 Chinese visitors came to Cambodia in the first quarter of 2017, up 26 percent over the same period last year, as the number of Vietnamese visitors to the kingdom declined by 6 percent to 203,400.
"It's for the first time that China overtakes Vietnam to become the biggest source of tourists to Cambodia," he told Xinhua, adding that Cambodia received a total of 1.5 million foreign holidaymakers during the January-March period this year, up 12 percent over the same period last year.
Sopheareak said Cambodia-China excellent relations, Cambodia's attractive tourism sites, and more direct flights between the two countries are the key factors attracting more Chinese tourists and businessmen to Cambodia.
Currently, 12 airlines have been operating about 120 flights per week between Cambodian and Chinese cities, he said.
"It is expected that Chinese tourists to Cambodia will reach 1 million in 2017," he said.
Cambodia targets 2 million Chinese tourists by 2020.
Last year, the country launched a white paper which listed steps to be taken by tourism authorities to facilitate visits by Chinese tourists, such as providing Chinese signage and documents for visa processing, encouraging local use of the Chinese yuan currency, encouraging the use of Chinese language, and ensuring that food and accommodation facilities are suited to Chinese tastes.
The Southeast Asian nation is famous for the 12th century Angkor Archeological Park in northwestern Siem Reap province. Besides, it has a 450-km pristine coastline stretching across four provinces in the southwestern part.
Tourism is one of the four pillars supporting the local economy. In 2016, the country welcomed 5 million foreigners, including 830,000 Chinese, earning gross revenue of 3.4 billion U.S. dollars, according to a Tourism Ministry report.