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281 Chapter 13 Tourism 13.1. Background Cambodia is a country with a rich diversity of cultural and natural resources. During the last decade the tourism industry has been growing to become one of the main pillars of economic growth. The rapid development of the tourism sector was attributed to the following factors: (i) attainment of peace and stability since the late 1990s; (ii) tourism attractions, especially Angkor Vat, which was listed as a World Heritage site in 1992; (iii) an increase in international and domestic travel; and (iv) the RCG’s policies on tourism development, such as the open sky policy, visas on arrival and visa exemption for Cambodian living abroad (CDRI, 2007, p. 31). Tourism comprises a major part of Cambodia’s services industry. The push for the development of services came from the rapid expansion of tourism and hotel industry during 1994-1998. Tourism has had two set backs since then- first in 1997-98 when it was affected by the Asian Financial Crisis and the unsettled conditions prevailing in the country at that time; the second in 2003 following the SARS pandemics, the anti-Thai riots and the political uncertainty in the aftermath of the 2003 elections. However, the RCG has made serious strides to implement policies that aim to: (i) promote marking and tourist products, with a focus on Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville; (ii) develop products, with an immediate aim of upgrading standards in hotels, restaurants, tourism sites, services and infrastructure; (iii) improve access point through upgrading physical infrastructures, such as airport, and linking Cambodia to tourism international gateways in South-East Asia such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore; (iv) improving the quality of Cambodia’s work force through training; and (v) strengthening tourism sector coordination and management through institutional development of government ministries and agencies. Since then the tourism sector has had a steady growth with the number of tourist arrivals reaching more than 2 million mark in 2008. 282 13.2. Tourist Attraction and Activities Cambodia has the following tourist attraction related to natural environment, history and culture: • Historical, archeological and cultural feature – The Angkor complex of Angkor Vat, Angkor Thom and other temples and the Barays constitute the most important and internationally known attraction of Cambodia. Angkor Vat and Preah Vihear temples were inscribed on the List of World Heritage; • Other important temples and archeological site – Other temples such as Preah Vihear, Banteay Chhmar, Phnom Penh, Angkor Borei, Sambor Prey Kuk are also considered as significant tourist sites; • Museums and Monuments – The National Museum in Phnom Penh and the Angkor National Museum provide comprehensive introduction to Khmer history and culture; • Royal Palace and Historic Buildings – The Royal Palace and French colonial buildings in Phnom Penh and in the provinces have become important tourist attraction; • Floating Villages – Floating villages, especially on the Tonle Sap Lake have attracted many tourists to come and visit Cambodia; • Traditional Crafts and Contempory Arts – Cambodian arts and handicrafts are very much appreciated and unique: Cambodian silk, silverwork, wood carvings, gemstones, jewelry and ceramics; • Natural Features – Seven natural parks and ten wildlife sanctuaries were designated as protected areas; scenic hill mountain landscapes, waterfalls and lakes have become tourist attraction sites. Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces are designed as the destination of ecotourism to diversify the tourism project. • Beaches, Marine Areas and Mekong River – excellent beaches are found along the coast at Kep, Ream and Sihanoukville. Offshore islands offer some excellent protected beaches and swimming areas. 13.3. Cultural Tourism Cultural tourism is one of the major pillars of economic growth performance in Cambodia. Angkor Vat, of worldwide renown, is a legacy left by the architectural genius King Suryavarman II (1113-1150) which has turned out to be a major source of foreign exchange 283 earnings for the country in modern times. During the reign of King Suryavarman II, Khmer engineering reached the pinnacle of technical excellence and artistic merit. Built as successive layers of stone slabs on an artificial mound, the Angkor Vat temple symbolizes the summit on which gods and monarchs lived in bliss and is the masterpiece of Khmer architecture. Angkor, the main point of tourist attraction in the country, was the capital of the Khmer empire between the 9th and 15th centuries. In addition to the temples of the Angkor complex, there are about 40 more edifices of various styles and periods in the area surrounding Angkor. These temples are located in an exceptional natural space, featuring rivers, forests, and rice fields. Further, Angkor...


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