Cambodia tourism

Tourism Industry Prepares to Welcome Back Travellers

Cambodia’s tourism players are celebrating the snap reopening of borders to vaccinated travellers after almost two years of no business, but fear recovery will not be fast
Festival goers during the annual Water Festival in Phnom Penh on November 19, 2021. Picture: Sam
Festival goers during the annual Water Festival in Phnom Penh on November 19, 2021. Picture: Sam

Tourism operators severely hit by the pandemic have welcomed the reopening of the country to vaccinated travellers but warned the industry faces a tough few months before full recovery.

“There are good signs, I think it will be difficult for a few months,” Din Somethearith, president of Cambodia Hotel Association , told a 4th Virtual Tourism Dialogue on Tuesday. Since the reopening on November 15 to vaccinated tourists, he said he has received a few bookings.

Somethearith said that he has lost nearly $1 million during the two years of the pandemic and any more closure would hurt businesses.

“We can’t say just wait a little, for me…for the whole of Covid, I lost nearly $1 million, so the word wait is difficult for all, for airlines, tourism and hotels,” he said.

Also: Mondulkiri tourism faces big challenges, and the government’s plan to spur growth is years away

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said that the reopening came as a surprise and many industry players have left for other work during the pandemic.

“The re-opening came fast…it is on time, we were surprised,” Sivlin said at the dialogue. “For hotels, they could get some local tourists to stay but for travel agents, we didn’t get,” she added.

“We were worried that if this crisis keeps delaying longer and longer, we may have difficulties getting staff back,” she said.

Laurence Erbs, general manager at Siem Reap International Airport, said that 12 airlines are operating now. Some airlines introduced new charter flights to Thailand in November, and will extend the charters in early December.

“Now the country is open, with good sanitary situation and very simplified entry conditions, we expect to receive new visitors and we are really ready for it,” Erbs said.

As Covid-19 Rules Fall, Businesses Face an Uncertain Future

Erbs said that most of the flights will start from Phnom Penh International Airport, with Malaysia and Philippines airlines confirming flights in December. Air Asia will fly three times a week to Bangkok and Lanmei Airlines once a week.

“We are in contact with all of the airlines, we are quite sure will have flights coming from the two to three airports… the signs are very positive,” Erbs said.

Chhun Makara, a deputy secretary general at the Ministry of Tourism, said he is hopeful the reopening will be a success and will not force the country back into lockdown.

“We want to re-open indefinitely, we don’t want to close it again.”

“There is hope for the tourism industry,” he said, adding that the Covid pandemic has slowed tourism growth by between 3 to 5 years. “It needs 3 to 5 years for the tourism sector to come back at a normal state,” he said.