Cambodia expects more international tourists from neighbouring countries after Thailand’s June 1 announcement to withdraw Covid-19 restrictions across the board, including post-arrival quarantine, and reopen land borders.
Top Sopheak, secretary of state and spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism, told The Post on June 6 that Cambodia’s tourism sector is recovering, especially domestic tourism, while international tourism will resume in earnest once Cambodia’s neighbours fully reopen.
Sopheak said that Thailand and Vietnam reopening would be a positive force for tourism recovery in Cambodia, as it would facilitate international tourism movement, especially reciprocal tourism between the countries.
“As we already know, Thailand has a large airport, many airlines and flights. So, when Thailand reopens, Cambodia would also benefit from the influx of tourists from there,” he said.
When contacted, Thourn Sinan, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman, said that Thailand has been open for a while now, only that foreign travellers needed to account for insurance.
However, the new lifting of entry rules is set to benefit Cambodia, particularly from the spillover of international tourists from Thailand, said Sinan.
“While Thai tourists visit Cambodia, Cambodians also visit Thailand for shopping. So, we see that both countries can complement each other,” he added.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents adviser Ho Vandy said the influx of tourists to Cambodia through the Thai border would be greater once Bangkok opens all land borders.
“For a long time, the next destination for foreign tourists who visit Thailand is usually Cambodia. Travel from Thailand to Cambodia is by air and land,” he said, adding that Poipet town and Koh Kong and Pailin provinces account for most overland arrivals.
“Before Covid-19, tourists visiting Cambodia via land borders represented 10 to 20 per cent of the total,” Vandy noted.
In 2021, tourists travelling from Thailand to Cambodia totalled 81,844, the highest out of 10 countries, followed by China (45,775 people), and Vietnam (22,120 people), the tourism ministry stated.
The number of foreign tourists visiting Cambodia plunged 84.96 per cent from 1,306,143 in 2020 to just 196,495 in 2021, the latter of which represents a nearly 97.03 per cent drop from the all-time peak of 6,610,592 in 2019.
Cambodia booked just $184 million in international tourism revenue last year, marking an 82 per cent nosedive from $1.023 billion in 2020. Last year’s figure was down by more than 96 per cent from the all-time peak of $4.919 billion in 2019, which had risen by 12.4 per cent over 2018.
By contrast, domestic tourism receipts amounted to $230 million last year, down by 42.2 per cent from $400 million in 2020.
Outbound Cambodian tourists dropped by 90.6 per cent year-on-year to 30,517 in 2021, and international tourist departures fell by 86.6 per cent to 183,608.
The tourism and travel industry accounted for 1.8 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, down from the three per cent and 12.1 per cent recorded in 2020 and 2019, respectively.