Sun, hotel and restaurant manager |Phnom Penh, Cambodia
January 7, 2010
Sun manages a hotel and restaurant frequented by primarily foreign tourists in Phnom Penh.
About Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and the country’s largest city. It’s also the nation’s center of economic and political activity.
LPT: What do you think about tourism in Phnom Penh or Cambodia?
Sun: Yeah, you know, this year and last year, tourism hasn’t increased because of the economic crisis.
Before 2008, like in 2007 and 2006, a lot of tourists came to visit Cambodia. Like this hotel, I think all the people who stay here are here because of their job or they came to study about Cambodian culture or politics. 90% of the customers who stay here, booked through the internet. And 50% of customers who stay in our hotel are from NGOs.
LPT: And what are some good things tourism is doing for Phnom Penh or Cambodia?
Sun: You know all tourism can be investments. For example, like, you want to visit Cambodia and after you’ve seen the sights, you want to invest in the country. So tourism can be an investment.
When they come the first time, they will come again. Because normally, investments cannot come if investors don’t know everything about Cambodia.
Sun: You know, I had one customer who came to stay here last week. He was a business man from China. He came to stay here for one week and came to observe everything in Phnom Penh. Like how many tourists came to visit Tusol Musuem, how many tourists came to visit the Royal Palace, and how tourism might benefit Cambodians. He wanted to know about the laws, the contract laws for businesses and the security in Cambodia. After they are clear with the information and have studied Phnom Penh well, including the countryside, they come for investment. So tourism is very important for Cambodia.
LPT: What are problems you see with tourism in Cambodia?
Sun: I think right now the problem is infrastructure. Like in the countryside, some places don’t have the infrastructure to go there. We have special places like Sihanoukville, Siem Reap province and Kampot province but other provinces, they’re still under construction.
LPT: So the infrastructure is poor in certain places?
Sun: Yeah, poor because the Pol Pot regime was just 10 years ago in Cambodia. So during the Pol Pot regime, the Pol Pot genocide, everything in Cambodia was like the number zero.1 It was like the number zero because Phnom Penh had only 7 people and now there’s 2 or 3 million people living in Phnom Penh. But maybe 10 years or 5 years from now, Cambodia may be more developed.
LPT: You know, this is my third time to Cambodia. My first time was 1997, second time was 2005 and this time coming back, I see there are so many changes.
Sun: Yeah, everything changed.
LPT: So much development, a lot of development.
Sun: Before in the countryside, we had to find schools and hospitals. Even me, I was born in Takeo province.
When I was 13 years old, I couldn’t find a school to study in. We only had a secondary school. Secondary school in the countryside, we studied in temples with monks and we didn’t have teachers. And if there were teachers, they were only the old teachers who weren’t licensed as teachers. They just remember how their former teachers taught them and continue to do it.
But now, there are schools, and they have trainings for teachers. The government also sends students to continue their studies overseas and they come back to become teachers.
And some NGOs support teacher trainings and provide education to teachers in the countryside.
Our government has also built an education infrastructure so it’s easy to study now.
LPT: What do you think Cambodia needs the most assistance with now? Is it in education? Is it in economic development?
Sun: I think that Cambodia still has corruption. Because even if you’re from a poor family, when you get a position in government, you spend your money to build a villa or buy the “gold car” or expensive car.
With government officials when they joined a party and their party wins, the party gets the positions in government. When they have the positions and their families are still poor, they will support their family first. All people, I think are like that.
So in Cambodia there’s still corruption but now we’re developing day by day. Everything day by day is better than before. And also the government supports the unification for gun control. So, now it’s good for Cambodians.
LPT: So there’s more and more stability for the country?
Sun: Yeah. And also Cambodia has laws against drugs and have lawyers so foreign investors can have more investments in Cambodia without worries. The government likes to assist all of them so they can come to do business. So a lot of the investments in Cambodia come from the Koreans and the Chinese.
LPT: Yes, just by walking around town, I’ve noticed a lot of businesses with Chinese and Korean signs.
So the businesses in Cambodia that depend on tourism, they must be suffering too because of the global economy being so down now?
Sun: Cambodia is an agricultural country. People who live in the city depend on tourism but in the country side, they don’t care about tourism. Because they grow rice, they don’t care about tourism. When we ask them about tourism, they don’t know. But in the city, it’s very important. If we don’t have tourism, all of the restaurants and all of the hotels will be closed because we won’t have customers. Can’t do business and the benefits for the government will be down too.
LPT: And so is agriculture still the number one economy in Cambodia?
Sun: Now it’s still but more and more people are coming to Phnom Penh to invest in tourism and hotels, like this.
1Cambodian Communities out of Crisis (CCC), Year Zero | http://www.cambcomm.org.uk/holocaust.html