We want more golf courses … When we have more golf courses, we have more tourists and prospective investments

PHNOM PENH – Cambodia doubled its number of luxury golf courses last year to four and hopes to have eight by 2010 in a bid to lure more high-end tourism from the fast-growing sport in Asia, officials said.

Cambodia in 2007 opened its only two PGA-rated courses in the popular tourist town on Siem Reap, in northwest Cambodia near the famed Angkor temples which remain the country’s biggest draw for foreign visitors.

A third course backed by South Korean investors is expected to open in Siem Reap in 2009, said Suos Yara, secretary general of Cambodia Golf Association.

Three other multi-million-dollar golf projects are also under construction near the capital Phnom Penh and along the border with Vietnam, with another planned near the seaside resort of Sihanoukville, he told AFP.

“Golf can attract more high-yield tourists. Beside touring our heritage sites, tourists also need entertainment,” he said.

“They have different hobbies, but most adults like playing golf as part of their tour package,” he added.

Cambodia’s profile as a golfing destination got a major boost when the Phokeethra Country Club in Siem Reap hosted the country’s first international golfing event in November.

Suos Yara said the golfing industry has also contributed jobs to the local community, adding that the government wanted to eventually see at least seven courses in Siem Reap and about 10 near Sihanoukville.

“We want more golf courses … When we have more golf courses, we have more tourists and prospective investments,” Suos Yara added.

Tourist arrivals to impoverished Cambodia topped two million in 2007, bringing in much-needed revenue.

But while most foreigners still flock to the Angkor temples, tourism officials are seeking to create more visitor destinations.