His Excellency Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO),
Her Excellency Ms. Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO,
Distinguished National and International Guests,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today I am delighted to attend the opening of the auspicious 1st World Conference on “Tourism and Culture” under the theme of “Building a New Partnership”.
First, I would like to thank and praise H.E. Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of UNWTO and H.E. Ms. Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO for providing cooperation to the Royal Government of Cambodia in organizing the conference in this marvelous city of world heritage site. Along with my warm welcome, I wish to extend my deep gratitude and appreciation to tourism and culture ministers, deputy ministers and delegations from around the world for participating in this event.
This historic inaugural conference reflected not only the linkage between development and culture and tourism, but also the close collaboration between UNWTO and UNESCO for a common cause which is being united to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to be prepared to achieve Post-2015 Development Goals of the United Nations through the linkage between culture and tourism development.
The conference is indeed a great opportunity for national and international institutions, experts and researchers who are in charge of culture and tourism affairs to discuss and share experience to identify new measures for promoting the development of culture and tourism sectors in the coming years in Cambodia, as well as the region and the world. In this spirit, I encourage the UNWTO, UNESCO and national institutions in the region and the world to continue your effort to deliver more achievements in order to accelerate the progress of the culture tourism sector as well as socio-economic development.
At the same time, I would like to express my high appreciation to the management and officials of the Ministry of Tourism, ministries-institutions and all relevant authorities for the collective effort to make this conference possible. This event will indeed provide us with broader ideas and views from global perspectives that will remind us to heighten our attention to the development of culture and tourism sectors for the cause of new results for the society and economic growth base for the present and the future.
Taking this opportunity, I wish to highlight what Cambodia has been doing to promote the development of tourism and culture sectors in terms of a new partnership. During the 1990s, thanks to the “Win-Win” policy, Cambodia can achieve not only national unity, national sovereignty, territorial integrity and full peace, but also high and sustainable average economic growth rate of 7.7% per annum. Following the growth of 7.2% in 2014, Cambodia’s economy is projected to grow not less than 7% in 2015 and in the medium term.
Cambodia’s optimistic growth projection clearly reflects the development of sectors that are key to economic growth such as agriculture, tourism, garment, and construction. Tourism, known as Green Gold, has experienced significant progress. In particular, in 2014, Cambodia received 4.5 million inbound tourists, an increase of 5.9% compared to 2013, and USD 3 billion in terms of revenues. The number of inbound tourists is projected to reach 5 million in 2015. The projection for 2020 is 7.5 million inbound tourists that generate USD 5 billion in terms of revenues and 80,000 jobs. In addition, Cambodia’s tourism campaign of “Cambodia: Kingdom of Wonder” and the competition movement of “Clean City, Clean Resort, Good Service” have greatly helped promote Cambodia’s prestige in the region and in the world. Along with this, Cambodia is open to tourism businesses by promoting fair competition, introducing policies for supporting the tourism development such as open sky policy, diversifying tourism products, and creating legal framework for the tourism sector and so on.
Truly, the tourism sector is not only a socio-economic sector that helps sustain economic growth, create jobs and reduce poverty, but is also considered an important sector that supports regional integration. In addition, the Royal Government of Cambodia remains committed to further developing the tourism sector into “Culture and Nature Tourism” It is undeniable that Cambodia is an important attraction of culture and nature tourism in the region, thanks to the unique Angkor Wat and other intangible heritage such as cultural arts, traditional dances, dramas, sculptures, people’s friendly lifestyle and Khmer cuisine…etc. These special features together with Cambodia’s beautiful beaches, green and natural forests are the core of naming Cambodia “Cambodia: Kingdom of Wonder” or in others word, “Kingdom of Cambodia is a Kingdom of Culture and its Culture is its Identity”.
Going forward, to build a new partnership and a new pillar through the linkage of tourism and culture sectors to help achieve Post-2015 Development Goals of the United Nations, we need two parallel components viz. enhanced competitive advantage of the culture tourism destinations and sustainability of the development of culture tourism. To achieve this, we need to understand opportunities and challenges in the tourism and culture sectors, creation of new models of partnership and governance, and policy recommendations at cross-sectoral level to promote the development of tourism and culture sectors, which is the topic of discussion in this conference.
Overall, the use of cultural heritage resource vastly benefits the development of the tourism sector. In fact, culture tourism account for around 80% of Cambodia’s tourism sector, a clear indication of Cambodia’s extensive experience in culture tourism affairs. To this end, we also note some challenges to the sustainable development of culture tourism, such as lack of cooperation and coordination between stakeholders, lack of development and management planning, insufficient human resource, limited public awareness on tourism and culture sectors and so on.
In this sense, I would like to contribute some ideas based on the concept of “Think Globally, Act Locally” to the conference as follows:
First, intensified effort to promote the joint role of the tourism and culture sectors in promoting economic growth and ensuring equitable distribution of the growth fruits. We must be well aware that culture tourism is not just a product that generates revenues but also contributes to socio-economic development since culture tourism development will benefit community development, enhancement of local people’s living standards and local development. This points out that appropriate and responsible use of cultural heritage for the development of tourism will create new job opportunities and income for local communities.
Second, tourism and culture sectors for the protection of heritage. When a heritage is inscribed on the list of World Heritage Site, it will help enhance the country’s prestige and global acknowledgement in addition to being a tourist attraction. Therefore, the conservation of cultural heritage will contribute to sustainable tourism development. In this sense, to ensure the development is based on the principle of sustainability and continuity in line with concept of “conservation for development and development for conservation”, it is necessary to manage it vigilantly, raise awareness among tourists and local people and coordinate between the cultural conservation and tourism development through introducing clear legal and institutional frameworks, promoting the use of IT and modernization in the development of culture tourism as well as the management of heritage site.
Third, tourism and culture sectors must be united to promote competitive advantage of tourism attractions and the culture of peace. The development of culture tourism will help strengthen the relations between tourists and local people, promote mutual understandings, enhance friendship and solidarity, and raise the pride as well as cultural identity of local communities. Thus, I strongly encourage the development community tourism in all culture tourism destinations to provide new job opportunities, knowledge and experience to local people to make the tourism sector a dynamic force of peace, cooperation, friendship, solidary and mutual understanding among peoples in the world.
Fourth, respective national effort to promote the sustainable development of culture tourism. We need to include four fundamental concepts as follows: (1) Promoting investment in and development of creative and memorable culture tourism products along with enhanced market assessment and advertisement; (2) Strengthening the quality of culture tourism products and building human resource in culture tourism sector; (3) Using innovative technology in tourism and culture sector and (4) Enhancing the relationship and partnership between tourism and culture sectors.
May I take this auspicious opportunity to request the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts as well as the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft, development partners and the private sector to give attention to facilitating people’s involvement by setting up a national program aimed at encouraging new ideas and creativity to produce new culture tourism products that showcase the culture and traditional lifestyle as well as traditional dances, food of different regions.
In addition, I call on the capital and provincial authorities to develop their own tourism development strategy and organize tourism events in their respective administrative zone based on principle of partnership between tourism and culture such as the “Angkor Sangkran” event organized twice by the Unions of Youth Federation of Cambodia. In this spirit, I call for the assessment of the possibility to create National Consultation Group for promoting the development of Cambodia’s culture tourism with participation from relevant ministries-organizations and private sector, as well as representative from UNESCO and World Tourism Organization as the partner of the technical consultation. In addition, there will be capital/provincial tourism development council to gather sub-national administration, private sector, potential investors, donors, educational institutions and relevant experts in the capital and all provinces. Taking this opportunity, I would like to appeal to UNESCO and World Tourism Organization to continue to provide cooperation and support to the establishment of such pilot inter-woven inter-institutional structure in Cambodia. I believe that the discussion in this conference will produce fruitful result and bring us closer to the Millennium Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Goals through the linkage between between culture and tourism sectors.
The Royal Government of Cambodia strongly believes that responsible and inclusive development of tourism will contribute to the conservation of heritage assets and add value to tourist destination, therefore, the contribution of the culture and tourism sectors to the realization of Post-2015 Development Goals.
Moreover, I believe that this conference will help enhance the joint effort to build a new partnership between tourism and culture, which will explicitly reflect your high responsibility, effort and determination to promote the sustainable and responsible development of tourism sector, especially culture tourism, for the cause of global economic growth. At the same time, I call on all participants to share your knowledge and experience in order to come up with a new Siem Reap statement on “Tourism and Culture”. I also would like to appeal to relevant local and international organizations to forge closer cooperation to develop a brilliant, robust and sustainable culture tourism sector that inclusively benefits all the people.
Before ending my remarks, once again, I would like to extend my warm welcome and appreciation to your presence in this event. I wish you all the most pleasant and memorable stay in this marvelous city of Angkor and I hope that you will bring back to your countries the good memories of Cambodia: Kingdom of Wonder.
Finally, along with the declaration of the opening of the World Conference on “2015 Tourism and Culture” under the theme of “Building a New Partnership”, I wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen happiness and prosperity. May the conference be conducted successfully and provide fruitful outcome for common benefits of the development of tourism and culture, and eventually the socio-economic development of each country./.