A delegation of local travel industry players are on a six-day visit to five of the seven Thai provinces along the kingdoms’ shared border, to promote new Cambodian getaway options, boost two-way tourist and trade flows, and support economic recovery in related sectors.

Comprising solely of members of the Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter (PATACC), the group is being led by the association’s chairman Thourn Sinan.

Sinan, who is also chairman of IMCT (International Management Cooperation Team) Co Ltd, confirmed to The Post on January 31 that the visit kicked off three days earlier and would cover Surin, Sisaket, Buriram, Ubon Ratchathani and Nakhon Ratchasima provinces – excluding Sa Kaeo and Trat which also border Cambodia.

During the visit, the team is discussing work with provincial governors, as well as officials, tourism and business associations, private companies, and investors who wish to lend a hand in promoting tourism and cross-border trade, he said.

“We’re promoting our tourist destinations in Cambodia … [as well as] tours from the O’Smach and Choam-Sa Ngam border crossings down to the Preah Vihear, Koh Ker, Preah Khan Kampong Svay and Sambor Prei Kuk temple areas, Angkor Archaeological Park, and the coastal region.

“We’re also looking into opportunities stemming from commerce along both sides of the border. [During the visit,] we’ve received a lot of interest from many Thai companies and associations in teaming up to promote tourism destinations across the two countries,” Sinan added.

Sar Sarin, vice-president of the Bangkok-based Cambodian Business Council (CBC), remarked that private sector involvement in travel and business promotion has been a key driver of tourism sector recovery, after more than two years of severe Covid-19-related disruptions.

“We welcome the efforts of any private sector representatives to jointly promote tourism destinations and the exchange of goods, which in particular could lead to a rise in exports of local products.

“Our two countries have good relations, so private sector and government involvement will be crucial to prop up tourism, as well as attract investment and more commerce,” he said.

In Cambodia, domestic trips and international arrivals have maintained a steady upward trend as of late, with Phnom Penh and the 24 provinces counting a cumulative 606,175 “tourists” – 49,592 of them foreigners – for the week of January 23-29, as reported by the Ministry of Tourism on the 31st.

And regular direct commercial flights between mainland China and Sihanoukville resumed on January 27, after Chinese-owned Ruili Airlines’ flight DR5031 from Kunming touched down in the coastal town at 9:45am, with a total of 104 passengers and six crew members aboard.

This came nearly three weeks after Beijing’s January 8 reopening to inbound and outbound tourism, amid concerns that spiralling coronavirus infections in China following the dismantling of its “dynamic zero-Covid” regime could be driving the emergence of new and potentially more dangerous variants of the pathogen.

China Eastern Airlines is also reportedly scheduled to launch routes from Kunming and Shanghai to Siem Reap on February 16-17, although it was not immediately clear on which day each inaugural flight would take off.

For reference, ministry statistics – sourced from the tourism departments of each of the 25 first-order administrative divisions – show Preah Sihanouk as the top tourist destination for January 23-29, with a 184,929 tally, of which 9,152 were identified as foreigners, followed by Kampot (65,787; 1,364), Battambang (61,737; 1,390), Siem Reap (47,676; 7,676), Kampong Cham (42,040; 238) and Phnom Penh (39,072; 25,518).

The divisions with the largest proportions of foreign tourists for the period were: Phnom Penh with 65.31 per cent, followed by Siem Reap (16.10%), Kampong Thom (11.83%: 324 of 2,738), Preah Vihear (10.86%: 740 of 6,815), Oddar Meanchey (10.47%: 58 of 554), Kratie (8.25%: 583 of 7,070), Preah Sihanouk (4.95%), Ratanakkiri (4.31%: 147 of 3,410), Kampong Chhnang (4.03%: 100 of 2,484) and Kandal (3.35%: 211 of 6,295).