International visitors exceed 1.26 million; Thais beat 2019 levels

Cambodia welcomed nearly 1.266 million international visitors in the first nine months of this year – up 861.21% year-on-year but down 73.58% from the same period in 2019 – including 59 08% came from Thailand and Vietnam, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

Among the arrivals from January to September, 946,125 or 74.75% declared “holiday” as the reason for visiting, 64,359 or 21.40% indicated “business”, while 48,737 or 3.85 indicated Other reasons.

Thailand accounted for 462,705 or 36.56% (444,943 holiday; 16,814 business; 948 other) – up 617.83% year-on-year and even 60.61% in the corresponding period of 2019 – while Vietnam accounted for 285,163 or 22.53% (208,333 holidays). ; 76,461 businesses; 369 others), up 3,628.11% year-on-year but down 55.25% compared to the similar period in 2019.

Next come mainland China with 62,425 or 4.93% of the total, followed by Indonesia (49,903; 3.94%), the United States (49,802; 3.93%), Laos (38,783 3.06%), South Korea. (36,404; 2.88%), Malaysia (34,438; 2.72%), France (31,157; ​​2.46%) and the United Kingdom (22,471; 1.78%).

September alone accounted for 21.13% of total nine-month international visitors, or 267,500, up 4.98% from August (254,813), up 7.65% from compared to July (236,697).

It should be noted that if the number of international visitors for each month remaining this year is equal to or greater than the September figure, the total for the full year would exceed 2.068 million, or 3.41% more than the upper limit of two million of the estimate. range offered by the ministry as recently as last month.

The president of the Angkor Tour Guides Association, Khieu Thy, told the Post on October 30 that the number of foreign tourists visiting Angkor Wat had increased significantly in recent months, noting that most came from neighboring countries, especially from Thailand, while the majority were Chinese before Covid-19.

Thy claimed that since a number of Covid-19 restrictions were rolled back “almost a year ago” to allow foreign arrivals to return, the surge in visitors from Thailand and other neighboring countries was “overwhelming”.

Even without as many travelers from more distant destinations as before, Cambodia’s tourism sector has remained sustainable, largely thanks to tourists from neighboring countries, after dropping to near zero at the height of the pandemic, a- he said, noting that most visitors from the border countries – Thailand, Vietnam and Laos – arrive by land.

“Anyway, we expect there will soon be many more holidaymakers from more distant countries traveling to Cambodia,” he said.

According to the ministry, most international visitors from January to September arrived by land, at 788,580 or 62.30%, followed by air (468,889; 37.04%) and waterways (8,303; 0 .66%).

The president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA), Chhay Sivlin, argued that more travel facilitation measures for residents of neighboring countries should be adopted.

She explained that, for the time being, the tourism sector in each jurisdiction will be primarily dependent on domestic and regional travel, amid the current global uncertainty related to geopolitical and economic shocks as well as ongoing disruptions from Covid-19.

“Visitors from neighboring countries are a good starting point for the post-Covid-19 tourism recovery. Although they don’t spend as much as guests from European and American countries, their presence is very important right now,” she said.

One such travel facilitation measure being considered by government officials is a pilot program that would allow Thai tourists with an official residence in one of the seven provinces that border Cambodia to travel overland to the province. from Siem Reap, especially the Angkor Archaeological Park, with only a border pass and not a passport.

The idea was raised during a plenary meeting on September 19 of the inter-ministerial commission in charge of facilitating travel to Cambodia at all entry points, which was held at the ministry and chaired by its chairman Thong Khon, who is also Minister of Tourism.

Siem Reap does not border Thailand, which would require program participants to enter Cambodia through one of the seven provinces along the border.

Following the meeting, Hor Sarun, state secretary in the tourism ministry and deputy chairman of the commission, said Khon was considering making a formal request to the government for the program. No update on the request was immediately available.

Sarun said Cambodia would benefit greatly from the trips of these Thai holidaymakers, which he said might not have happened otherwise. “Some Thais want to go see Angkor Wat, but they don’t have a passport. Now those living in a border province can apply for a border pass and be able to visit,” he said.

He explained that residents of Thailand’s Sa Kaeo or Surin provinces can travel to Siem Reap via Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey or Oddar Meanchey provinces, respectively.

Clockwise, the seven Thai provinces that border Cambodia are: Trat, Chanthaburi, Sa Kaeo, Buriram, Surin, Sisaket and Ubon Ratchatani. Conversely, the seven Cambodian provinces that border Thailand are: Koh Kong, Pursat, Battambang, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear.

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