The Tonle Sap, Phnom Kulen and surrounding areas of Siem Reap city are all slated for development under a new Tourism Master Plan announced by the Ministry of Tourism in September in a bid to attract more visitors to the city and Angkor temples complex. The plans also include the creation of a new tourism hub town in Siem Reap province, complete with an international airport.
Under the heading of “Turning Challenges into Opportunities”, the Master Plan contains four strategies for the diversification of new tourism products, extending the stay of tourists, boosting competitiveness and improving connectivity and crafting a new identity for the Siem Reap area, including Preah Vihear province.
The announcement came on the heels of concerns about visitor numbers to Angkor and Preah Vihear, which were down 9.7% and 5.5% respectively for the first seven months this year. Those figures have since been updated, with Siem Reap seeing an 11% fall in foreign visitor numbers for the first eight months this year.
New attractions such as homestays, village tours and an eco-village are being mooted for the Tonle Sap, while Phnom Kulen may find itself endowed with adventure and spiritual tours, as well as the expansion of trekking and hiking trails. The plan also raises the possibility of a Kulen bio-centre with an education programme, and a tour garden for the cultivation, exhibition and sale of local plant life.
For Siem Reap city itself, plans are afoot to develop the city’s celebrated food and drink offerings, while 60-Metre Road may also see some further changes. At the Angkor Archaeological Park, the plan raised the possibility of night visits to the temples and encouraging more people to visit the temples by bicycle.
Notwithstanding Siem Reap’s reduced performance this year, the number of tourists coming to Cambodia continues to rise at a rate exceeding 10% per year and is projected to keep growing in the same vein, increasing to 10 million by 2025 and 15 million by 2030.