Cambodia must consistently bring in around seven to eight times the approximately “1,000” average daily number of mainland Chinese visitors tallied among the better days of January, if it wants to reach pre-Covid levels, according to Minister of Tourism Thong Khon.

The minister was speaking to reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport on the morning of February 7 at a reception for the 125 Chinese tourists aboard national flag carrier Air China Ltd’s first post-Covid flight to the Kingdom, CA745, which departed from Beijing.

Khon mentioned that the flight was the “first” post-pandemic Beijing-Phnom Penh flight. Laying out a target for 0.8-1.0 million Chinese visitors this year, he noted that the January total came to about 25,000, compared to a pre-2020 monthly average that could approach 200,000.

Dispelling concerns about the Covid spread in China and potential ramifications for the Kingdom, the minister commented that Chinese travellers typically undergo medical check-ups prior to departure, and that most Cambodians are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Citing the World Tourism Organisation, Khon shared that, of China’s reported 1.4 billion population, about 300 million people are able to travel abroad, compared to 150 million in 2019.

This comes just about a month after Beijing’s January 8 reopening to inbound and outbound tourism, amid concerns that spiralling coronavirus infections in China following the dismantling of its “dynamic zero-Covid” regime could be driving the emergence of new and potentially more dangerous variants of the pathogen.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin, who attended the reception, asserted that the arrival of Chinese tourists would have “a lot of positive effects” for the local travel industry, pointing out that mainlanders represented “more than 30 per cent” of the pre-Covid tourism market.

The return of Chinese visitors will create loads of jobs and income for the tourism sector, as well as indirectly benefit farmers and producers of agricultural and food products sourced by the industry, she said.