International tourism receipts clocked in at $1.415 billion last year, marking a 7.690-fold increase over $184 million in 2021, albeit still a 71.2 per cent decrease from 2019’s record $4.919 billion, according to the Ministry of Tourism’s Tourism Indicators 2022 report.

Tourism’s share of GDP (gross domestic product) came to 3.6 per cent, compared to 1.8 per cent in 2021, 12.1 per cent in 2019, and 12.7 per cent in 2018, the report indicated.

With 2,276,626 international travellers to Cambodia logged by the ministry for 2022, this means average tourism receipts per visitor fell in the range of $621.31-621.76, accounting for rounding.

On the internal tourism front, the ministry earlier put the number of domestic trips by Cambodians within the Kingdom last year at 13,934,150, up 198.81 per cent over 2021 (4,663,082) and 68.50 per cent over 2019 (8,269,719).

The latest report cited internal tourism expenditures made by Cambodians at about $650 million – or a ballpark mean of $50 per person – and noted that an average domestic trip lasts three days and two nights.

The number of formal tourism establishments stood at 13,597, which encompassed 80,717 rooms for accommodation, the report said.

Ministry data shows that outbound Cambodian tourists numbered 970,292 last year, compared to 30,517 in 2021 and a 2,038,284 peak in 2019.

Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan commented to The Post on March 12 that international tourists have been on a gradual rise since the beginning of 2022, which has yielded in much-needed revenues for the tourism sector and government after two years of global Covid-19 gloom.

“For me, this is a delight and a source of pride for Cambodia, now again able to register increases in international tourists as well as in the money that they bring. Tourism tends to contribute lots to economic growth,” he said.

On the flip side, geopolitical crises,high inflation rates, and unfavourable economic growth patterns across the world, in addition to significant epidemiological risks, will continue to threaten tourism in 2023, he cautioned.

“If the global situation remains as it is now, I’d still believe that tourism in Cambodia will continue to grow [and] improve over last year, but the level of fragility is still high,” Sinan claimed.

Tourists visit Neak Pean Temple in Siem Reap on January 1. Hong Menea

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin believes that major events scheduled to be held in Cambodia will encourage substantial increases in trips to and across the Kingdom this year.

She listed some of these as the sea and river festivals, exhibitions, and key regional sporting events – including the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and 12th ASEAN Para Games.

“In 2023, Cambodia’s tourism sector will see improvements compared to 2022, especially in the number of regional tourists – including visitors from China,” she said, predicting that Beijing’s January 8 reopening to outbound tourism will provide a considerable leg-up for the Kingdom’s travel industry.

Come what may, public and private Cambodian tourism industry actors are “ready” for the anticipated uptick in national and international holidaymakers.

Last week, tourism ministry secretary of state Top Sopheak told The Post that the number of international visitors to Cambodia for 2023 is projected at four million, with 0.8-1.0 million of them mainland Chinese.

He indicated that 30 per cent of the anticipated mainland Chinese visitors to the Kingdom this year – roughly 0.24-0.30 million – are expected to visit Siem Reap province.

A tourism pilot programme launched on February 6 is tipped to be a main driving force of Chinese travellers to Cambodia – in which Beijing allows travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, covering Cambodia and 19 other countries, according to China’s tourism ministry.

The other 19 nations chosen for the programme, which follows a three-year ban, were Argentina, Cuba, Fiji, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.