As Cambodia’s tourism sector shows signs of post-pandemic recovery, the nation is projected to receive between 1.5 million and 2 million tourists this year, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday. He added the number will rise to 7 million by 2026.
In a speech under the theme “Rethinking Tourism” to mark World Tourism Day, Hun Sen said the sector faces multiple challenges, including the prolonged pandemic, war in Ukraine, trade wars, climate change and inflation.
He added these factors have made the industry more resilient and highlighted the importance of working together to bring about positive reform.
Hun Sen also urged all stakeholders to engage in the restoration of the country’s tourism sector in terms of quality, quantity and sustainable services.
As part of the recovery plans, Hun Sen said there should be diversification of tourism destinations and products offered that are safe, quality and creative. He added that there must be a joint plan from the state, private and public sectors based on a bottom-up approach.
The Cambodian premier noted it is key that the sector becomes digitized and green to increase its competitiveness. Labor forces in the industry also need to be skilled and trained to be equipped with more market capabilities.
The impact of Covid-19 on the tourism sector has been catastrophic, with arrivals seeing an 80 percent decline in 2020 compared to 2019, said the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
For the entirety of 2021, international arrivals were estimated at 150,000. However, despite the 99 percent decline in foreign visitors, domestic tourism has maintained reasonable momentum with 7,230,000 traveling within Cambodia in 2020.
Cambodian officials and businesses last week mooted an initiative to attract Thai nationals living in border provinces to visit Siem Reap, especially the Angkor resort, without passports as part of post-pandemic tourism recovery efforts.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said the move is good for tourism recovery, giving large numbers of Thai populations the chance to visit Siem Reap, including ethnic Cambodians living in these seven provinces.
“Some of them do not have passports and if they can be allowed to visit Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, they would invite others to visit as groups, this would help tourism-related businesses a lot,” Sivlin said.
She added that Siem Reap’s tourism landscape continues to struggle, and Thai tourists will help it bounce back because, similar to Cambodians, they do not tend to plan a trip long in advance.
“If only 20 percent to 30 percent of people who live in these provinces come, we would receive a lot,” she added.