Cambodia Could Save Millions If It Promotes Domestic Goods Before Importing Tourism Products

Cambodia Ta Prohm
Tourists visit the Ta Prohm temple complex in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, March 16, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Samrang Pring)

Cambodia may be focusing on importing tourism-based products that could further add up to the tourism sector's costs, Minister of Tourism, Thong Khon, said during a ministerial meeting on Wednesday.

According to The Phnom Penh Post, Khon said promoting the use of products made in Cambodia and cutting down on tourism imports could help drive economic growth. "If Cambodia [can reduce] tourism-based product imports by 10 percent, [we] will save approximately $400 million [of national revenue]," he explained.

The Kingdom of Cambodia is expected to grow its tourism sector by $5 billion come 2020 but analysts believe this will be achieved if the Kingdom focuses on domestic goods without completely shutting out imported items.

According to Khon, Cambodia has been importing around 25 percent of products to supply the country's tourism sector. Imported items range from vegetables and meat products, premium alcoholic beverages, steel products that are used in building hotels, and furniture.

Chhay Sivlin, President of the Cambodia Travel Agent Association, pointed out that there is a shortage of local goods despite the increasing number of international tourists entering the Kingdom. "If we can reduce the number of imports and promote quality local products, I truly believe it will help build the country's reputation and attract tourists to stay longer," he said.

Industry experts added that Cambodian tourism firms should start attracting investors to bet their funds on domestic production. Analysts said the government should help encourage tourism-based companies that make use of local raw materials to further capitalize on what the country has to offer.

Tourism is a major driver in the Cambodian economy and many inbound tourists come from Asian countries that support local tourism campaigns. According to Xinhua, Cambodia saw an increase of 31.7 percent in Chinese tourists during the first two months of 2019.

China makes up for the largest percentage of foreign tourists that visit Cambodia. During the January to February period itself, Chinese tourists accounted for 33.6 percent of the country's total foreign visitors records. It is further expected that the numbers will rise within the next few years.

In 2018, tourism contributed a significant 12.7 percent to Cambodia's total GDP (gross domestic product), further solidifying the sector's strength in driving the local economy. Industry analysts said domestic production will help enhance goals to promote local culture and practices that the country takes pride in.

A huge chunk of revenue from Cambodia's hospitality industry has been spent on imports last year but the government pledged to promote its domestic raw materials and tourism-related products through campaigns aimed at local hospitality firms.

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