Omicron Casts Shadow Over Cambodia Tourism Revival

The tourism industry has expressed fresh fears that the spread of Omicron will hamper the nation’s recovery
Heath workers bring food for COVID -19 patients at Olympic Stadium on January 20, 2022. Picture: Sam
Heath workers bring food for COVID -19 patients at Olympic Stadium on January 20, 2022. Picture: Sam

By Chea Sameang

As Omicron continues to spread through Cambodia’s communities, the hotel and tourism industry fears the impact as it struggles to kick-start.

Oum Vorleak, Siem Reap Sokha Hotel administration reservationist who deals with booking rooms, told Kiripost when the government reopened the country to tourists, it was a good sign that visitors would start to return, especially during Water Festival, and New Year’s Eve. However, pick-up has been slow.

Vorleak is now worried about losing her job if the new Omicron continues to spread in Siem Reap.

“I am so sad, if there are no tourists, I am afraid of losing my job. If there are no tourists, there is no money to support my family,” she said.

She added that since Omicron, hotels are silent because they do not have guests, especially foreigners. She continued, on weekdays, a few tourists booked rooms. At the weekend, some Khmer and Chinese visitors booked rooms but there were no other foreigners.

Chhay Sivlin, president of Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA), expressed concern that Omicron could affect the tourism sector. However, she said, due to vaccinations, promoting local eco-tourism and the international vaccination policy will help tourism shine again.

She told Kiripost that there were flights and hotel bookings from foreigners but some have canceled their trip to Cambodia due to the Omicron outbreak in neighboring countries.

“Willing or not, Omicron still affects tourism because some visitors are afraid of infection, and change or delay plans to visit Cambodia,” Sivlin said.

“Sometimes we get foreigners through neighboring countries’ flights, but when this virus spreads, they have restrictions on travel. That has an impact on Cambodia,” she added.

Since the outbreak in early 2020, about 3,000 tourism establishments, such as hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, spas, and clubs, have closed operations. This is despite owners cutting their staffs’ salary by 20% to 70%.

About 60,000 employees who are involved in the tourist sector have turned to other work for survival. This includes farming and interpreters because tourism cannot provide them money anymore.

“It’s a big impact from COVID-19 since early 2020, but currently due to local tourism encouragement and vaccination campaigns, around 700 places have returned to normal operations,” she said.

The Ministry of Health reported 44 new cases of Omicron on Thursday. This brings the total cases in the country to 168.

Cambodia’s overall Covid cases stand at 121,000, with 3,015 deaths. No deaths have been reported in the last 18 days, according to the Ministry of Health.

On Friday, Hun Sen said those tested positive with Omicron can choose where they have treatment, saying the variant is not as dangerous despite its ability to quickly spread.

In a voice message, Hun Sen said those who are already in government-controlled facilities can leave and seek treatment at home, a hotel or their embassy.

“Now we know that Omicron, even though it spreads quickly, is not very dangerous when compared with Delta and Alpha,” Hun Sen said on his Facebook page.

“For all foreigners who come to the Kingdom of Cambodia and when they test positive with Covid 19, whether it is Omicron or not, they are allowed to go to a hotel, embassy and their place of residence for treatment at their choice. There is no need to take foreigners into the hospital anymore,” Hun Sen said.

After Hun Sen’s order, the ministry put out a new measure to comply with the premier’s voice message for travelers into the country. Unvaccinated arrivals will be required to be quarantined for 14 days under the new measure.