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Hopes for early tourism resumption dashed

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
Chinese tourists visit the Angkor Wat complex in Siem Reap on December 6, 2019. Numbers have since fallen dramatically. AFP

The Kingdom’s tourism industry could rebound only by  2025 when the COVID-19 pandemic is fully killed off, according to a tourism industry insider and other observers.

If Cambodia and other countries in the globe are able to control the outbreak of the Coronavirus by 70 percent at the end of this year, the growth of the tourism sector in Cambodia is expected to recover by around 30 percent in 2021 and 2022, said Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Tourism Association Cambodia Chapter (PATACC).

He told Khmer Times that for Cambodia, it will need at least four to five years to see the growth of the tourism sector resuming to normal. Sinan added that Cambodia is a small state, therefore relying on neighbouring and surrounding countries is important to it.

“At present, the neighbouring countries as well as the countries in the region still have closed borders and some have lockdowns, while, some countries are still strict on the regulation of travel. Therefore, although Cambodia has opened its economy, it will not get an immediate boost,” Sinan added.

“The Cambodian government will not take any risky steps to open its economy, especially the tourism sector, until a COVID-19 vaccine has been found and released for treatment,” he added. “If we open for tourism and there is a spread of the virus in the community, we are not able to control it because the resources and medical capabilities as well as the understanding of the people is limited,” Sinan added.

From January to April 2020, the nation welcomed only around 1.16 million foreigners, according to figures from the Ministry of Tourism. However, there were only 4,841 international visitors in April alone this year, down 99.1 percent year-on-year.

Cambodia welcomed only 3,031 Chinese national visitors, a drop of 98.5 percent. Most of them, 2,617, were businessmen while the rest were tourists. The next largest group was Thai national visitors at 1,157 (-96 percent), then Korea at 174 (-98 percent), then Japan at 84 (-99.5 percent). The prolonged suspension of tourist visas to foreigners and the proof of medical insurance to the value of $50,000 (which most insurers are unwilling to provide) and a health certificate from foreigners that states they are free of the COVID-19 infection valid for up to 72 hours as well as a deposit of $3,000 upon arrival in Cambodia, could kill the tourism and the aviation sectors, say observers.

The Ministry of Health said that it will charge foreigners for COVID-19 laboratory tests, quarantine and medical treatment services. The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) asked Cambodia Airports to arrange  counters for ACLEDA and Canadia Banks at the arrival terminal of Phnom Penh International Airport to facilitate the returnable deposit of $3,000.

Sinan said the government’s strict health measures for tourism and air-connectivity have completely killed tourism. “The government’s measures do not seem to welcome tourists,” he added.

Van David, a local entrepreneur, said a lack of confidence in the prevailing situation in the country is being stirred up with this message. Phan Phalla, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said: “We are open for the domestic economy and domestic tourism, so it will be okay.”

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