Cambodia welcomed more than 1.914 million international visitors in the first 11 months of 2022, up nearly 12-fold on-year, in an improvement largely attributed to effective pandemic management and the relatively early adoption of a “Living with Covid” approach.

However, this is still down 67.55 per cent compared to the 5.898 million booked for the same period of record-breaking 2019, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

Of the January-November arrivals, 1.466 million or 76.60 per cent declared “holiday” as their purpose of visit, 381,482 or 19.93 per cent marked “business”, while 66,484 or 3.47 per cent indicated other motives, ministry figures show.

Thailand accounted for the lion’s share at 720,203, up 81.82 per cent over the same 11-month period of 2019, followed by Vietnam (401,193; down 50.42%), mainland China (90,648; down 95.84%), the US (76,670; down 65.03%), Laos (74,327; down 76.14%), Indonesia (68,167; up 17.84%), South Korea (52,025; down 76.91%), France (46,698; down 68.11%), Malaysia (46,656; down 73.01%) and the UK (36,574; down 74.61%).

The ministry recently revised its full-year forecast to 2.2 million, from the 1.5-2.0 million range that it put forth in early September, Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin told The Post on January 1.

The Kingdom is well on track to reach the target, with November alone accounting for 17.66 per cent of the 11-month total for international visitors, at 338,101, up 9.00 per cent over October (310,182), which was up 15.96 per cent over September (267,500).

And if the number of international visitors for December is equal to or greater than the November figure, the full-year total would pass 2.25 million and mark a nearly 11.5-fold increase from the 2021 total of 196,495, albeit a 65.93 per cent drop from 6.61 million in 2019.

Sivlin predicted that a sustained uptrend in international arrivals to the Kingdom, which she said has been especially pronounced in recent months, will extend into 2023, with Chinese travellers making a notable return. “Before the Covid-19 crisis, Cambodia used to see loads of Chinese tourists,” she remarked.

She put this down to a progressive uptick in inquiries among potential visitors as well as tourism-linked businesses into flights to Cambodia along with food and dining options, accommodations, tourist destinations, and tour guides in the Kingdom.

“China’s reopening will allow Cambodia to bring in more Chinese tourists in 2023,” Sivlin said. “Now, the companies and agencies that cater to Chinese customers are little-by-little resuming operations.”

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan acknowledged the marked improvements witnessed by end-2022 in traveller numbers and tourism businesses in the Kingdom.

However, he commented that in the near term, Covid-19, geopolitical competition among major powers, and other global headwinds will by and large keep the industry from recovering to levels seen prior to the pandemic, when the Kingdom could bring in more than six million international visitors.

“The current growth bodes well for the tourism sector, but it’s still highly fragile due to disunity among the world’s major powers. Local visitors will remain a priority for the time being,” Sinan affirmed.