by Wang Qibing, Nguon Sovan
PHNOM PENH, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Thursday that the country needs to improve tourism products and services in order to attract more Chinese tourists.
He made the remarks after a recent survey, conducted by the China Tourism Academy, on outbound Chinese tourists satisfaction index in the third quarter among 22 countries showed that Cambodia ranked the "lowest satisfactory level."
"In fact, Cambodia's tourism products are comparable with other countries in the region since we have the Angkor Wat temple, a World Heritage Site, and a beautiful coastline," Thong Khon told Xinhua in an interview. "However, we still need to beautify these sites in order to attract more visitors."
He said the Cambodia got the lowest rating of the satisfactory level probably because some Chinese visitors felt uncomfortable with some Cambodian tour operators or souvenir shops selling fake products to them.
"We acknowledge that some tour companies provide poor services and hospitality to customers and some shops cheat tourists by selling fake souvenir items," he said.
The ministry has been educating vendors at tourism sites not to sell fake products to tourists, or they are spoiling the tourism industry in the long run, he said.
"As I know, Chinese tourists hate fake souvenirs," he said, adding that the ministry has also been working with the ministries of culture and commerce to issue quality-certification tags to stick on souvenir products so that tourists can recognize them.
Some Chinese tourists expressed dissatisfactions with Cambodian customs police at international airports for demanding tips.
"We recognize this misbehavior by some individuals--this action adversely affects the tourism and must be eliminated," he said, adding that he has held meetings every three months with the heads of customs police at airports on this matter.
"I always ask them to stop demanding tips from tourists because this will discourage them from coming to Cambodia," he said.
The minister said China was the second largest source of tourist arrivals to Cambodia. During the first eight months of this year, some 305,500 Chinese had visited Cambodia, up 47 percent year-on-year.
"Cambodia has set a target to attract between 1.5 million and 2 million Chinese tourists by 2020," he said.
To achieve the goal, he said, Cambodia would prepare entry-exit application forms and announcements at airports in Chinese language, signs on main roads in Chinese language, consider establishing Chinatowns and train more Chinese-speaking tour guides.
In addition, the country would encourage hotels, restaurants and tourism-related establishments to use three languages: Khmer, English and Chinese on billboards or promotional brochures.
"Chinese are rich now, more and more Chinese have been traveling overseas every year," he said. "Close ties between Cambodia and China is an essential base to attract more Chinese to Cambodia."
President of World Express Tours and Travel Ho Vandy said the survey was a mirror for tour and travel operators and tourism- related businesses to improve their services for a long-term attraction for Chinese tourists.
"Some tour operators sell travel packages to tourists at cheap prices; then, provide poor services to them," he told Xinhua on Thursday. "This is one of the factors affecting the credit of Cambodian tourism."
Sem Phalla, secretary general of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, which represents about 220 tour and travel companies, said customs police at airports demanding tips from tourists should be seriously punished.
"This action negatively affects the tourism; we never support it," said Phalla, who is also the managing director of the Green Travel Group, noting that this is "the behavior of some individuals."
Hy Pru, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh Immigration Police, declined to comment, while Suon Socheat, head of the Immigration Police at the Siem Reap International Airport, did not pick up his phone after repeated calls for comments on Thursday.
Tourism is one of the four sectors supporting the economy in this Southeast Asian nation. Last year, the country received 3.5 million foreigners, earning over 2 billion U.S. dollars.