Cambodia is shaking off its image as an add-on destination and is showing signs of becoming a standalone spot with European holidaymakers, claim the country’s tourism players.
Traditionally regarded as part of a multi-destination trip with neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia’s mounting collection of tourism products, improved infrastructure and promotion of emerging destinations are raising its appeal among European travellers.
This is coupled with Europe’s growing appetite for intrepid, off-the-beaten-track holidays. Tour operators say Cambodia now has a wealth of options to compile innovative itineraries that tick all the boxes.
Steve Lidgey, manager at Travel Asia a la Carte, said: “We can see Europeans are seeking immersive, authentic destinations for extended visits and Cambodia is ideal for these sorts of tours. Once guests leave Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, it is hard to meet large numbers of tourists, ensuring interaction with local people and surprises along the way.”
The recent opening of private islands off the Sihanoukville coast and ongoing development on the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem should also fulfil Europeans’ rising desire for nature, sustainable tourism and barefoot luxury.
Charles-Henri Chevet, area general manager at Sofitel Phokeethra Hotels, commented: “New luxury offerings on the islands will generate strong interest from the European region, playing an important role in stimulating growth and extending stays.”
He noted a recent rise in European travel operators and journalists visiting Cambodia on fam trips to sample the swathe of new properties opening across the kingdom – another factor he believes will stimulate the country’s appeal to Europe as a single destination.
Increased connectivity is also prompting the shift. Miles Gravett, general manager at Khiri Cambodia, said Emirates and Qatar Airways flights are helpful in developing the European market. Increased connections with major transit hubs, such as Bangkok and Singapore, have also helped.
Lidgey added that the promotion of more emerging destinations, such as Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri, Kampot and Kep, and development of itineraries that touch these spots should spur interest in Cambodia-only trips.
He said: “Most potential guests probably have only heard of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The more they see other destinations featured, (the more) they can join the dots and do a round trip of Cambodia as a single destination.”