A total of 481,582 international visitors flew into Cambodia in the first quarter of 2023, a 5.5-fold year-on-year increase from 86,976, but still 37.07 per cent of the 1,299,122 registered during the equivalent three-month period in 2019, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

Air arrivals accounted for 37.29 per cent of the Kingdom’s 1,291,539 total international visitors for the January-March period, which was up 709.51 per cent from 159,546 in the year-ago period, but down 31.22 per cent from 1,877,853 in the corresponding period of 2019. By comparison, 61.36 per cent and 1.36 per cent of these travellers entered overland or via waterways, respectively.

Of the aforementioned air arrivals, the Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville international airports received 339,291 (70.45%), 138,046 (28.67%) and 4,245 (0.88%), respectively, compared to 74,820 (86.02%), 10,376 (11.93%) and 1,780 (2.05%) a year ago. These figures were 581,709 (44.78%), 583,879 (44.94%) and 133,534 (10.28%) in the same time of 2019.

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter chairman Thourn Sinan commented to The Post on May 29 that travel, especially overseas, remains relatively subdued due to the considerable socio-economic risks posed by Covid-19, the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, inflation and similar crises.

The majority of foreign tourists visiting Cambodia at the present time are locals or from bordering countries, he noted, reasoning that travel is easier from closer afield and that more land, water and air options are available.

“It’s very difficult for me to forecast the tourism situation in Cambodia or air arrivals in the future because of how unclear the global situation is,” Sinan conceded, although he expressed hope that the ongoing confluence of crises would materially improve in the near future.

Thiem Thuong, president of Siem Reap-based Cambodia Chinese Tour Guide Association (CCTGA), remarked that even though pandemic fears have greatly diminished compared to the 2020-2022 period, fewer foreign tourists are travelling to the Kingdom than anticipated, while the number of international flights has not yet returned to pre-2020 levels.

“More tour guides are employed in Siem Reap than before [during 2020-2022], but things are very different from the pre-Covid era. We don’t know when foreign guests will pick up,” he lamented.

On the other hand, Thuong shared that many of the guides who were forced to pursue other careers just a few years ago are now “ready” to return to the tourism field.

The ministry reported that Cambodia welcomed nearly 2.277 million international visitors in 2022, marking a 65.56 per cent fall from the all-time high of 6.611 million in 2019, but an 11.59-fold increase against 2021. Of the total, 791,603 (34.8%) arrived via air, compared to 4.404 million (66.62%) in 2019.

A visitor in the context of these statistics is a person travelling to the Kingdom, “staying at least overnight and not exceeding a specific period for leisure, recreation, business and other legal tourism purposes; and not relevant to the purpose of permanent residence or any remunerated activities”, as defined by the ministry.