Minister of Tourism Thong Khon attended the eighth Khmer Empire International Marathon Day on August 6, held in front of the majestic Angkor Wat Temple.

He noted that the event had brought together 2,511 runners, over 500 of whom were foreigners from 45 countries around the world. The figure showed only a minor decrease over last year’s August 7 races, when more than 3,000 runners from 49 countries took part.

Despite being the rainy season, with a subsequent decline in European visitors, Khon pointed out that the overall number of international visitors was not on the decline. He expected that Cambodia would receive around five million visitors this year, and up to seven million per year by 2026.

“Generally this event, a full 42km marathon, attracts fewer runners that the annual half-marathon which is held in December. As the first major event to follow the SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games, we have attracted over 2,500 athletes, including many from Vietnam, China and Japan. Because this month is the rainy season, not so many runners from Europe attended. It is also vacation time in Europe,” he added.

He believed the number of runners reflected the fact that tourists have observed the peace Cambodia enjoys, and also the excellent preparations made by the organising committee.

“They have witnessed the sustainable peace and stability of the nation. In addition, the APSARA National Authority (ANA) have prepared the tourism sites beautifully. They are not just for Cambodians – many foreign visitors are also interested in relaxing and taking part in sports here,” he explained.

He said the preparations at the Angkor Archaeological Park would attract more visitors to Cambodia despite the rainy season, and noted that sports events were also a vital way of attracting visitors.

“When the rainy season comes, we need to consider holding many events. We used to call the rainy season low season, but now we call it the green season because few European tourists wanted to visit during the low season. The entire Southeast Asian region experiences the green season. Weather conditions are similar, so travellers in the region still travel as normal,” he added.

He acknowledged that global issues like the effects of the Russian war in Ukraine kept the number of visitors low, but remained optimistic that the number of tourists would continue to increase at the end of this year, and into the next one.

Sem Phalla, general manager of the Phnom Penh International Half Marathon, said that the eighth Khmer Empire International Marathon Day had been an excellent success, without any incidents, and believed that its excellent preparations would attract more support and participation from runners from overseas. Over 500 foreign athletes attended this year’s event. Of them, more than 300 came from overseas, while nearly 200 worked and resided in Cambodia.

“I expressed my gratitude to all relevant sides and to the Cambodian and foreign sportspeople who attended the eighth Khmer Empire International Marathon Day,” he added.

“I believe that next year’s run will see an increase in runners. Many overseas athletes were ready to take part this year, but enrolled late. In addition, by next year I expect to see an increase in direct flights to Cambodia, so the 2024 marathon should be even bigger and better than this year’s event,” he said.