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Chinese tourists to Kingdom slip 86% in Covid-hit 2020

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Tourists visited Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province in 2019. Hong Menea

Chinese tourists to Kingdom slip 86% in Covid-hit 2020

Chinese tourist arrivals to the Kingdom plummeted 86 per cent last year to 329,673 compared to 2,361,849 in 2019 amid global uncertainty concerning the potential impact of the novel coronavirus, according to Ministry of Tourism data.

Cambodia welcomed 1,306,143 international tourists in 2020, down by 80.2 per cent from 6,610,592 in 2019. The Chinese accounted for the lion’s share of 25.2 per cent, the figures, obtained by The Post on March 25, show.

Thailand ranked second for tourist arrivals by country of origin at 210,876 (down 54.8 per cent on a yearly basis), followed by Vietnam (182,199, down 80 per cent), the US (55,973, down 77.5 per cent), South Korea (55,935, down 78.1 per cent), the UK (44,784, down 72.7 per cent), France (43,174, down 73.7 per cent) and Japan (41,257, down 80.1 per cent).

International tourist arrivals by air, land and waterways plunged to 756,265 (down 82.8 per cent), 498,384 (down 75.7 per cent) and 51,494 (down 67.2 per cent), respectively.

Ministry spokesman Top Sopheak noted that the Covid-19 pandemic triggered a crisis in every country, sharply dragging down international tourist arrivals across the board.

He told The Post on March 25 that while the pandemic’s trajectory remains unclear, Cambodia and every other country is slogging away on Covid-19 vaccination drives.

“With the world ostensibly in a fog of uncertainty surrounding the spread of Covid-19, we cannot yet predict what the [tourism] sector will look like in 2021,” Sopheak said, adding that the ministry and the Kingdom’s civil servants are driven in their pursuit to revitalise the industry.

Cambodia Chinese Tour Guide Association president Tea Kileng claimed that Chinese tourist arrivals have been on a constant decline since the beginning of last year, and were a notable absence during the Lunar New Year season.

He attributed the steep fall to a substantial decrease in flight routes and a general reluctance to travel amid concerns of exposure to Covid-19 infection.

Even 2021 has fared no better, as tourism arrivals to the Kingdom sink even further in the first three months, he claimed.

“Nowadays, visitors to the ancient temples in Siem Reap province, be they Chinese or from other countries – or even domestic ones, are almost nonexistent,” Kileng said.

But Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin remains cautiously optimistic about tourism’s performance this year as the government’s vaccination campaign forges ahead.

She told The Post late last year: “Going into 2021, I feel that tourism could recover a smidge if most of the people around the world can get their hands on Covid-19 jabs. But as travel hinges on the configuration of economic, safety and health settings, we are all too well aware that tourism is the most fragile and vulnerable sector.

“I anticipate that the tourism sector in Cambodia will need at least another five years to rebound and once again enjoy 2019-levels of international tourists.”

According to ministry statistics, international tourists visiting Cambodia in 2019 spent $4.91 billion in tourism receipts, an increase of 12.4 per cent compared to $4.37 billion in 2018.

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