Tourism industry players have welcomed the increase in domestic tourism as a key step towards restoring Cambodia’s embattled tourism sector back to pre-pandemic levels, but stressed that it was still necessary to find ways to attract international tourists due to their expected longer stays and higher spending power.

According to latest figures from the Ministry of Tourism, the first three full weekends of May 2022 saw a total of 993,309 domestic trips made: 299,888 in the first week (May 7-8), 390,609 in the second week (May 14-15), and 302,812 in the third week (May 21-22).

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents adviser and World Express Co Ltd managing director Ho Vandy told The Post that the recent increase in domestic tourism on weekends was a “positive sign” that has, and will, encourage the authorities and owners of resorts and tourism sites to fully reopen facilities, which would also serve to attract international visitors.

He credited the rise in domestic tourism primarily to the high number of national festivals and public holidays in April and May. Travel abroad also remains unsafe or closed off to overseas visitors due to continued Covid-19 restrictions, leading to Cambodians opting for local holidays, he said.

Vandy added that domestic tourism has been contributing significantly to job creation as well as direct income for locals through the sale of food and accommodation.

Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan welcomed the increase in domestic tourism, noting that it was a positive sign for foreign visitors who are interested in travelling to Cambodia as, coupled with continually low reported Covid-19 transmission rates, such tourist flows demonstrate that the Kingdom is a safe holiday destination.

“When a country returns to normal, it increases the confidence of all those who want to travel, especially in the Covid-19 era,” he said.

However, Sinan stressed that local visitors alone would not be sufficient to lead the tourism sector back to pre-pandemic levels of activity, citing the lower spending power of local tourists, who mostly do not require guides, and largely only embark on short stays over public holidays or weekends.

The tourism ministry on May 18 said that, since the government announced the country’s reopening to fully vaccinated international tourists in November, the tourism sector in Cambodia has been “gradually recovering” and is projected to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2025 for international tourists and 2023 for domestic tourists.

In 2022, Cambodia is expected to welcome a total of 0.8-to-one million international tourists and eight million domestic tourists.