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PHNOM PENH -- Cambodia has welcomed the resumption of China Eastern Airlines flights to its Siem Reap cultural province, the country's Ministry of Tourism said in a press statement on Saturday.
China Eastern Airlines flight MU2091, carrying some 132 Chinese tourists, arrived at the Siem Reap International Airport from Shanghai Friday night and received a warm welcome from Cambodian tourism officials, local authorities and tour and travel operators, the statement said.
The Ministry of Tourism's Secretary of State Top Sopheak, who greeted the tourists upon their arrivals, said that China Eastern Airlines would operate direct flights between Shanghai and Siem Reap on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday weekly.
"The return of Chinese tourists and investors is a good sign for Cambodia's tourism and economy in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era," he said.
Sopheak said the Southeast Asian nation is expected to attract 4 million international tourists, including 800,000 to 1 million Chinese tourists, in 2023.
China was the largest source of foreign tourists to Cambodia in the pre-pandemic era, a Ministry of Tourism's report said, adding that the kingdom received 2.36 million Chinese tourists in 2019, accounting for 35.7 percent of total tourist arrivals to the country and generating about 1.8 billion U.S. dollars in revenue.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said the comeback of Chinese tourists gave "high hopes" for the country's tourism industry and economic growth in the post-pandemic era.
"I think the famed Angkor archaeological park in Siem Reap and coastal areas in Sihanoukville will remain the most attractive destinations for Chinese tourists," she told Xinhua.
Tourism is one of the four pillars supporting Cambodia's economy. The country attracted up to 6.61 million international tourists in 2019, generating a gross revenue of 4.92 billion dollars, according to the Ministry of Tourism.