The Ministry of Tourism is targeting visitors from countries in the Middle East, a region believed to have great potential for Cambodia’s tourism market.

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The ministry said it is promoting Cambodia in the Middle East to increase the number of tourists and investors from the region.

For instance, in April, ministry representatives participated in the Arabian Travel Market 2019 in Dubai, where interest in Cambodia ran high, according to Top Sopheak, ministry spokesman.

Mr Sopheak said the ministry is aiming to diversify its tourism market, which is now dominated by China.

“China is now Cambodia’s biggest tourism market. There is also a lot of tourists from Asia and the European Union,” he said, adding that “tourists from Islamic countries are now a priority.

“To attract them, we are promoting Cambodia in the Middle East, and we hope to see more and more tourists from this region in years to come.”

Mr Sopheak said the number of tourists from Muslim countries is expected to increase due to the availability of flight routes connecting Cambodia with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Emirate Airlines operates a daily air service between Dubai and Phnom Penh via Myanmar’s Yangon. The airline also launched a daily flight from Dubai to Phnom Penh through Bangkok.

Qatar Airways, meanwhile, operates a daily route from Doha to Phnom Penh with layover in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.

Thoun Sinan, chairman of the Cambodian chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said Cambodia must focus on reducing its reliance on the Chinese market.

“Targeting tourists in the Middle East is a way to make the sector more sustainable,” he said.

Mr Sopheak and Mr Sinan called for more Halal food outlets in Cambodia. They said the lack of halal food options is keeping many people from visiting Cambodia.

The government created a halal certification last year for local companies.

In 2021, Cambodia will host the Asean Tour Forum (ATF), which will showcase Cambodia’s tourism sector and attract interest from tour agents around the world, Mr Sopheak said.

Last year, 6.2 million international tourists visited the Kingdom. Two million of them came from China.