Cambodia Expects Two Million Visitors Next Year

The Arrival Gate at Phnom Penh International Airport. Photo: Sem Vanna

PHNOM PENH – Cambodia is expecting one million visitors by the end of 2022 and two million visitors by 2023, as the country will host the 2023 Southeast Asian Games and ASEAN Para Games next year, said Tourism Minister Thong Khon.

These projections were announced on July 12 during a press conference which aimed to wrap up the latest developments of the highly strategic tourism sector.

Thus far, more than 500,000 international tourists have come to Cambodia during the first half of 2022. While it represents an increase of 394 percent when compared to the same period last year–when Cambodian borders were closed– it constitutes a 84.8 percent decrease compared to 2019, before COVID-19 started.

In 2019, the country hosted 6.6 million international visitors. A number that hadn’t ceased to grow for almost 20 years.

According to the minister, the main market sources were Vietnam, Thailand, China, the United States, Indonesia, France, South Korea, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, and India.

But the pandemic put an end to this constant growth, leading the tourism sector to rely only on local tourists. In 2021, 4.66 million Cambodians visited the country’s top destinations (Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, the coastal area and the Northeastern provinces), a 35.5 percent decrease compared to 2020.

However, Khon highlighted that local tourism is now in good shape with Cambodia’s different provinces hosting 6.33 million national visitors in the past six months.

“Based on the recovery of the tourism sector, both globally and regionally, along with the government’s proactive intervention, the number of visitors arriving in Cambodia is expected to hit one million by the end of this year and two million by 2023,” Khon said.

The number of international tourists in 2022 may decrease by 30 to 40 percent compared to the pre-pandemic period in 2019, as the global tourism sector has been suffering from the negative effects of the still-ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the Russia-Ukraine war. The latest led to a sudden rise in inflation, causing a spike in gasoline prices and the decline in consumers’ purchasing power, said the minister, citing the projection of the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

National tourists flying abroad have also increased in the past six months. According to a report issued by the Tourism Ministry, 181,246 Cambodians went abroad from January to June 2022 compared to 30,517 in 2019 as a whole. Most Cambodian travelers went to Thailand and Singapore for tourism and business purposes.

The Minister also announced a few key documents within the framework of tourism policy and strategy development to support, promote and receive Cambodia’s economic sector: the roadmap for recovery of Cambodia Tourism during and post COVID-19; the Siem Reap Development master plan 2021-2035; the Mondulkiri Tourism Development master plan 2021-2035; and the Kep Tourism Development master plan 2022-2035, which is still in the process of writing.

As for restoring the tourism sector in Cambodia, Khon added that the government published two important documents to support its strategy: the Policy Measures for promoting internal tourism 2021-2023, and Strategic Plan for opening the country to vaccinated tourists.

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