China's pandemic strategy optimization "great boon" for Cambodia's tourism, economy: academics

Tourists visit the Angkor Wat in the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, Dec. 17, 2022. Photo by Van Pov/Xinhua

PHNOM PENH -- Academics in Cambodia said Thursday that China's optimization of its COVID-19 strategy early this month is a "great boon" for Cambodia's tourism and economy.

Vun Phanith, a lecturer at the Institute for International Studies and Public Policy, a school of Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), foresaw that large numbers of tourists, business people and investors will return to the Southeast Asian nation, given close relationship between the two countries.

"The comeback of Chinese travelers will be a great boon for our tourism and economy," he said here during a round-table discussion on China's reopening.

"Their return will also help promote cultural exchanges and people-to-people connectivity between the two countries towards the building of a community with a shared future," he added.

China was the biggest source of foreign tourists to Cambodia in the pre-COVID-19 pandemic era, a Ministry of Tourism's report said, adding that the kingdom received 2.36 million Chinese tourists in 2019, generating about 1.8 billion U.S. dollars in revenue.

The world's second largest economy is also the top foreign investor in Cambodia.

Lim Chhay, a program manager for foreign affairs at the think tank, the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung Cambodia, said Chinese tourists, business people and investors have importantly contributed to socio-economic development in Cambodia.

"The opportunity from China's reopening is very clear, (and) we expect to welcome a huge influx of Chinese tourists and investors to Cambodia again, like it was before the pandemic," he said. "Chinese tourists like to spend money for their holidays, so their return will give a boost to our tourism growth."

Cheng Ousa, junior researcher from the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at RUPP, believed that Chinese tourists, business people and investors will pour into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) including Cambodia after China's optimization of its COVID-19 strategy.

"ASEAN will reap great benefits from China's optimization of its COVID-19 strategy, thanks to close relationship between the two," she said.

"To us, we're very happy that the Chinese tourists are coming back because their presence will contribute to our gross domestic product (GDP) and tourism growth," Cheng added.

Long Sovitou, another junior researcher at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, said Cambodia is looking forward to the return of Chinese tourists after their absence in the last three years.

"China's reopening will greatly help Cambodia recover our economy in the post-pandemic period, and one of the industries that will greatly benefit from that is tourism," he said.

Tourism is one of the four major pillars supporting Cambodia's economy. In the pre-pandemic era, the kingdom registered 6.6 million international tourists in 2019, contributing 4.92 billion dollars to the GDP.

Cambodia is famous for its three world heritage sites, namely the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province, the Preah Vihear Temple in Preah Vihear province, and the Sambor Prei Kuk Archaeological Site in Kampong Thom province.

Besides, it has a 450-km pristine coastline stretching across four southwestern provinces.

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