The tourist draw of Vietnam and Cambodia Print
Thursday, 25 August 2011 13:57


PHNOM PENH — “I love this city”.  These were the words of a young Canadian graduate student who is in Phnom Penh as part of his research for his master’s thesis. There is something about Phnom Penh that makes one fall in love with it. It is not greener than Singapore but it certainly has a lot of  spaces set aside for parks and trees. The skyline is not as impressive as Hong Kong but this skyline has changed over the years I have been coming here – with more tall buildings in modern architectural lines.

One of the impressive additions to the skyline is that of the new building of Norton University, although this is not in the city center but a bit out. The façade of the building is in a style immediately recognized as Khmer and as has been intended by the owner will definitely be an iconic structure for Phnom Penh, and very likely end up as a post card for the city. There are 2 other buildings going up in the new campus for the university and these two immediately give one a sense of a Cambodian style of building.

I do not have the numbers but I certainly got the impression that there are a lot of tourists visiting Phnom Penh from the foreigners shopping in the Baclaran-style market. People go there for souvenirs,  jewelry in silver or gold with the colored stones that are aplenty  in this country, and garments. My traveling companions from the Philippines ( 2 Filipinas and a Japanese) had shopping at the top of the list of what to do here in Phnom Penh.

At one time  I had a serious conversation here in Phnom Penh with an Australian woman who was a professor of tourism studies in Melbourne. She told me that the Philippines will most likely not be as attractive a tourist destination as Thailand, etc. because of its geographical location. Tourists can fly to the Asian mainland and from any of the tourist destinations as a port of entry move on to other destinations.  Manila would have to be a special route. Add to this the fact that the Philippines is not a “cheap” place to go to – our hotels for instance – and we see how we must have to give  Manila and the rest of the country a real attractive allure to bring in the tourists.

A room for two in a decent hotel in the city center of Saigon, airconditioned with TV, clean towels  and free breakfast, could cost only  about $30 or even less. Some could be had for half that price and yet not be a fleabag.  One has to be really adventurous to book a similar room in Manila. Or perhaps I am simply conditioned by what I know as a native Filipino.

Zamboanga has to address other factors if it is to draw tourists. Some of the negatives, especially the matter of security,  are not within the control of the local government. Nevertheless we have to accept this as a reality and consider it when we assess the potential for tourism of Zamboanga City.