The number of foreign tourists entering Cambodia through the Kingdom’s three international airports witnessed a sharp 92.5 per cent year-on-year decline in the first seven months of this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
The airports handled 51,729 international tourists in the January-July period versus the 693,064 logged in the same period last year, ministry data revealed on September 3.
Phnom Penh and Sihanouk international airports recorded 43,909 and 7,816 foreign holidaymakers, respectively, plunging by 88.7 per cent and 87.5 per cent.
While no corresponding figure was provided for Siem Reap International Airport, the ministry indicated a “steep drop of nearly 100 per cent”.
Of note, international tourist arrivals by air, land and waterways during the seven-month period ended July 31 cratered by 90.6 per cent to 112,544, from 1.2 million a year earlier.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin on September 3 called on the Kingdom to seize the opportunity and reopen to international tourists fully-vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
She proposed October-November as a reasonable timeframe for reopening tourism, noting that Cambodia has acquired a reputation for its relative control of the pandemic and boasting the second highest vaccination rate in ASEAN – after Singapore.
“News of opening up to fully-vaccinated tourists would be a superb development, and could incline more foreign sightseers to visit Cambodia as they ponder travel destinations for the upcoming winter season,” she said.
The ministry and the private sector have been actively working together to plan and launch a number of precautionary pandemic-related safeguards and other mitigation measures to prepare for reopening the tourism industry.
On April 1, Prime Minister Hun Sen formally approved a 2021-2025 three-phased national tourism roadmap and a 2021-2035 Siem Reap provincial tourism development master plan to navigate the sector’s emergence from the Covid-19 pandemic and support its recovery.
And in a bid to revive Cambodia’s tourism sector, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon later that month asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to consider opening the door to the Angkor area and other tourist destinations in Siem Reap province in October-December for fully-vaccinated international tourists.
The tourism ministry has remained fairly consistent over the past five months on its goal to reopen the industry in the fourth quarter of this year.
Ministry spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on September 1 that the ministry “has been working hard on this arrangement, which may materialise by the end of this year, maybe November-December”.
Last year, Cambodia welcomed 1,306,143 international tourists, tumbling by 80.2 per cent from 6,610,592 in 2019, according to ministry statistics.