PHNOM PENH (AFP)–Tourist arrivals to Cambodia climbed 19% for the first three quarters of 2007 compared to the same period last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday.
"We expect tourist arrivals to reach 2.0 million in 2007," he told a biannual investment and trade meeting.
Cambodia recorded about 1.7 million tourist arrivals in 2006.
The burgeoning tourist sector has injected new life into impoverished Cambodia, which is still recovering from decades of conflict.
The boom in visitors has brought with it new construction, as developers race to meet demand for hotels and resorts, Hun Sen said.
Earlier this year the government also approved plans for several high-end resorts worth $627 million to be built on the islands off of the country’s southern coast.
Foreign airlines have been keen to take advantage of the rising number of tourists, with Japan Airlines becoming the latest carrier to offer direct charter flights to Cambodia.
JAL will fly between three major Japanese cities and Siem Reap, the gateway to Cambodia’s famed Angkor temples.
Hun Sen said two companies are in talks with officials to form a national carrier, of which the Cambodian government will hold a 30% stake.
Several attempts to form a national airline have failed since Royal Air Cambodge, the country’s last carrier, collapsed in 2001 under the weight of mounting financial debts.
The prime minister said negotiators had reached a deal that would protect the government from any losses incurred by the airline.
"We have been waiting for so long now," he said, urging officials to speed up the talks.