International arrivals to Cambodia took a 64.7 per cent nosedive in March to 223,400, from 633,164 in the same period last year, data from the Ministry of Tourism shows.
The Kingdom welcomed 1,155,226 international tourists in the first quarter of this year, down 38.5 per cent compared to the 1,877,853 in the same period last year.
Of that, 663,641 arrived by air, a 48.9 per cent year-on-year drop from 1,299,122, while 491,585 arrived by land and water, a 15.1 per cent year-on-year fall from 578,731.
The data shows that the Kingdom attracted 259,732 Chinese tourists (down 62 per cent), 179,450 Vietnamese (down four per cent), 152,654 Thai (up 55.9 per cent), 52,979 US (down 33 per cent), 51,651 South Korean (down 46 per cent) and 44,231 UK (down 25.5 per cent).
Ministry spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on Tuesday that the primary reason the number of foreign tourists had cratered was the Covid-19 outbreak, which fuelled fear among the citizens and authorities of countries around the world and led to travel restrictions to curb its spread.
“We saw a significant drop [in international arrivals] in March. This is a global crisis that is affecting every country in the world. I wouldn’t dare predict what Cambodia’s tourism landscape will look like in the second quarter. We must first wait and see how the Covid-19 crisis plays out,” said Sopheak.
During this time, he said, the ministry has striven to develop strategies and share new tourism destinations in the Kingdom with the world.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin said the outbreak has brought the Kingdom’s tourism sector to a standstill, most notably since the beginning of March.
As reservations dry up and cancellations continue to mount, she said tourism companies and stakeholders are at risk of shutting down.
“With the tourism sector now dead, operators in the sector are being forced to take up new occupations,” said Sivlin.
The considerable drop in tourism professionals, she said, poses a threat to the sector’s post-Covid-19 recovery. “The challenges brought on by a lack of industry experts in the sector may become more evident once the tourism sector improves,” she said.
Cambodia earned $4.91 million from international tourism last year, up 12.4 per cent from $4.37 million in 2018, ministry data shows.
Income from international tourism in 2018 grew by 20.3 per cent compared to 2017. Tourism revenue contributed about 12.1 per cent to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product that year.
Cambodia welcomed 6.61 million international visitors last year – up 6.61 per cent from 2018’s 6.2 million.
Before the pandemic, the ministry estimated that Cambodia would receive 6.45 million international tourists and $5 billion in revenue this year.