Cambodia’s tourism sector looks for growth avenues despite COVID-19 disruptions

Cambodia’s tourism sector looks for growth avenues despite COVID-19 disruptions

Expert Reports  

In 2020, due to the drastic drop in international tourist arrivals Cambodia can lose about $3 billion, according to Tourism Minister Thong Khon. He says that due to the COVID-19 crisis, the number of foreign tourists visiting Cambodia can drop by 70 per cent.

The latest report released by the Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism shows that about 3,000 tourism-related establishments in the Kingdom have been either suspended or closed. According to experts, it is devastating to Cambodia’s economy because the tourism sector is among the key industries. The country attracted 6.6 million international visitors in 2019, earning total revenue of $4.9 billion. The Cambodia’s tourism sector employs up to 630,000 people. It contributes to over 12 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product growth.

In April 2020, Cambodia received just over 4,800 foreign tourists, down 99 per cent from almost 538,000 in the same month last year. Mainly Chinese (some 3,000) and also over 1,000 Thais and around 170 South Koreans visited the Kingdom.

During the first four months, January-April of this year, the Southeast Asian country greeted 1.16 million international visitors, down 52 per cent from 2.41 million over the same period last year.

The experts are afraid that workers involved in the Cambodian tourism sector will panic through fear of unemployment, unless the problem is addressed immediately.

The Tourism minister said about 3,000 tourism-related establishments such as hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, massage parlours, karaoke clubs had been either suspended or closed by the end of May. This affected about 45,500 workers.

As for Angkor Wat, the world’s top tourist attraction, according to the Cambodia’s official figures, foreign visitors are rare, and local businesses have gone bankrupt. The number of paying visitors has been measured by the dozens. These are the tourists who remained in the country after the coronavirus began crossing borders in late January, 2020. That compares with more than 2.2 million tourists who last year paid almost $100 million to get through the gates of the 12th-century temple. The Cambodia’s tourism industry has blossomed over the last 10 to 15 years with Angkor Wat, the ruins and surrounding temples in the country’s north-west, and the nearby town of Siem Reap was rebuilt into a tourist hub.

The experts believe that the government and tourism sector should prioritize the health of people to attract more travellers again. Policymakers should implement clear protocols for all tourism suppliers and tourists to abide by, ensuring the sustainability and safety of travelling.

According to experts, there is a change in consumer behaviour in the tourism sector in Cambodia because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Economic Forum, people will be more inclined to visit uncrowded destinations in future. Furthermore, young travellers and families are interested in participating in nature-based tourism such as ecotourism, adventure tourism, and exploring coastal islands and remote provinces. This points the tourists will prefer sites and destinations that allow social distancing to be practised.

That is why main tourist destinations and attractions that are usually swarming with tourists such as Angkor Wat and many other temples across Cambodia should limit the number of tourists visiting at any one time.

The experts thinks that various tools should be used to convey the message, and using videos or social media platforms are highly encouraged.