Cambodia's Tourism Minister was at Phnom Penh International Airport to personally welcome the first group of Chinese tourists since its reopening.
At the airport, Minister of Tourism, Thong Khon, welcomed more than 125 tourists as they stepped off the plane. He also spoke to the media about the significance of the flight for Cambodia's economy.
He noted that China is one of the world's largest tourism markets, with 155 million Chinese tourists traveling globally in 2019.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, the Tourism Minister said,
“It’s the first flight from Beijing to Phnom Penh since China reopened its country for tourists to travel abroad.”
As the AirChina flight touched down on the runway, the minister put on a Khmer krama to signal the nation’s warm hospitality before the tourists disembarked.
Pre-pandemic, Cambodia received 200,000 tourists from China per month. This year, the minister expects to welcome between 800,000 and one million tourists from China, with a goal of 7,000 to 8,000 each month.
Chhay Sivlin, President of Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), recently told Kiripost that Cambodia has to attract as many tourists as possible to recover from economic setbacks, as the pandemic has badly impacted the tourism sector.
The Minister also addressed concerns about the recent Covid-19 spread in China and reassured that measures are in place to prevent its spread. Cambodia's hospitality sector is ready to receive tourists, including accepting payment in Chinese Yuan.
When asked about what this first flight means for the Cambodian economy, Thong Khon told reporters, “When it comes to tourism, it means money and spending. Tourism from China is one of the world’s big markets. About 155 million Chinese tourists traveled the world [in 2019].”
The Minister noted, “In November 2021, when we reopened our country, China hadn't opened yet. It was not until early January. This year we might have 800,000 to one million tourists from China.”
During the pandemic, from 2020 to 2022, the state of the Chinese tourism market changed rapidly and declined sharply worldwide due to the introduction of strict Chinese travel bans.
Cambodia announced its reopening in November 2022. It has been evaluated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the most friendly tourist destinations. The country made significant efforts in rolling out its vaccination campaign, which enabled it to quickly reopen as one of the leading nations in the region.