Cambodia welcomed over 4 million foreign tourists in the first ten months of 2023, a sharp increase compared to the corresponding period last year. Visitors from three neighbouring ASEAN member states remained at the top of the arrivals list, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

Data from the ministry released last weekend indicate that for the first ten months of 2023, a total of over 4.4 million foreigners travelled to the country. This marked an increase of 179.7% compared to the same period in 2022.

Of these, 63.1% were from three countries: Thailand accounted for 1 million (34.1% of total foreign visitors), an increase of 154.3%; Vietnam followed with 825,970 (18.7%), rising by 141.5%; and China with 453,562 (10.3%), expanding by 497.5%.

In October alone, Cambodia saw 480,330 foreign tourists, a 54.9% increase compared to October 2022. 

Thailand emerged as the top source with 163,569, up 27.5%. Vietnam followed with 95,895 (up 68.9%), and China with 48,048 (up 256.2%). Other significant sources included Laos, the US, Korea, Indonesia, France, the UK and Australia.

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), stated that the number of foreigners visiting the country has steadily recovered since the initial decline in 2020 due to Covid-19, primarily from border and regional countries. 

She attributed the high number of Thai and Vietnamese visitors to the ease of cross-country travel by land and waterways.

She noted that major national events such as the Water Festival and the Sea Festival in early December are key in promoting the sector and attracting more travellers and foreign investors to the country. 

She explained that these events not only help create a vibrant domestic tourism movement but also serve as an outreach to showcase the political, economic, peace, points of interest and friendly atmosphere of the Cambodian people.

“After the successful Water Festival, we believe that both foreign tourists who have visited and those who have not, but have seen positive images from the [celebration], will be interested in visiting Cambodia more. Cambodia is a safe tourist destination,” she said.

Khieu Thy, president of the Khmer Angkor Tourist Guide Association (KATGA), stated that the government’s strategy for promoting and attracting foreign visitors and investors to Cambodia plays a crucial role. 

The strategy, encompassing internal promotion and investment in infrastructure such as roads, international airports and the development and improvement of resorts, is instrumental in elevating the potential of the country’s tourism sector. 

He expressed confidence that, given the current initiatives and assets, the country will undoubtedly attract more foreigners.

“The opening of Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport [SAI] and the launch of policies to promote tourism will further help attract [foreigners],” he added.

According to the ministry, 2019 marked the country’s peak in international visitors, with over 6.6 million, a 6.6% increase compared to 2018. The total number from the three border countries was 1,608,625, accounting for 24.33% of the total, while China reached 2,361,849 (35.7%).

In 2022, Cambodia received nearly 2.28 million international visitors, an increase of 1,059% compared to 2021. Travellers from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and China totalled 1,516,855, accounting for 66.62% of all foreign guests, as per the ministry.