Progress was made towards borderless trade and tourism between Thailand and Cambodia last week with the announcement that a Thai state-owned transport company will commence bus services between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh to Bangkok later this month.
According to a press release on its website, the transport company will begin services on two routes between Cambodia and Thailand on December 29. Buses will run from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh to Bangkok via the Poipet-Aranyaprathet border crossing.
A memorandum of understanding between Thailand and Cambodia for traffic exchange at the border was signed in May.
This will be the first public bus service between the two countries, although private companies already offer bus and mini-van combination services to the borders and onward to Bangkok.
Ho Vandy, co-chair for the tourism private sector working group, said the new bus service is a result of the good diplomatic relations and upgraded infrastructure between the two countries.
“Diplomatic relations are very good at the moment,” he said. “Infrastructure between Cambodia and Thailand is running smoothly and most of the national roads are built. The international checkpoints allow Cambodia and Thailand to assist each other,” he added, noting that promoting tourism between the two countries has been a goal for some time through the “Two Kingdoms, One Destination” promotion.
However, Ho Vandy cautioned that with increased traffic between the two countries, transport policies should be strengthened for the safety of tourists and promote adherence to traffic laws.
According to Praivan Limpanboon from the Thai Business Council of Cambodia, the new service will be more of a boost to tourism than trade and will be most utilized by young middle-class travellers.
“It will surely increase the number of tourists to Cambodia as well as from Cambodia to Thailand particularly among those middle-class and/or young earners who want to travel with more of their family and friends,” she said.
“Goods transported by this bus service may require a longer time for customs and excise tax clearance at the border,” she said.
“In which case, it would not be so convenient for passengers to wait that long,” added Praivan.
She also said the service may prompt an increase in medical tourism between Thailand and Cambodia.
“It may also increase passengers visiting Thailand for medical services like the bus services between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam [have done],” she said.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Tourism, over 137,000 Thai nationals visited Cambodia between January and September this year, a 69.9 per cent increase from the same period last year giving it a 5.3 per cent market share in Cambodia’s tourism industry.