Cambodia booked just $184 million in international tourism revenue last year, marking an 82 per cent nosedive from $1.023 billion in 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic curtailed travel throughout the world.
Last year’s figure was down by more than 96 per cent from the all-time peak of $4.919 billion in 2019, which had risen by 12.4 per cent over 2018, according to Ministry of Tourism statistics.
The number of international tourists visiting the Kingdom also plummeted from 1,306,143 in 2020 to a mere 196,495 in 2021, which represents a nearly 97.03 per cent drop from the record 6,610,592 logged in 2019, ministry figures show.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents adviser Ho Vandy told The Post on February 21 that all countries are embarking on a steady slew of initiatives to spur international travel, in a world blighted by persistent threats to public health and global tourism posed by the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
He predicted that Cambodia would earn more from international tourism receipts this year than in 2021, should the Kingdom – along with other ASEAN countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore – scale back travel restrictions for international arrivals as soon as planned.
“Cambodia’s tourism sector also stands to benefit from a reduction among neighbouring countries in quarantine requirements for foreign sightseers, as visitors who travel there may continue on to Cambodia as well,” Vandy said.
The protracted downturn in visitors and tourism revenues over the past two years has absolutely devastated the local industry, with more than 70 per cent of businesses shutting down operations, he said.
During this rough patch, however, the government has taken action to ease the burden of the most severely affected businesses and individuals, he added.
“Since Covid-19 struck the tourism sector, the government has made many concessions to support these actors, providing them with funds and tax exemptions,” Vandy said.
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan, however, was not so optimistic about the outlook for the tourism industry in 2022.
He remained hesitant to offer any predictions, suggesting that the Omicron threat is growing, and adding new uncertainty to the industry’s trajectory.
On the flip side, the raft of new strategies aimed at restoring and maintaining international tourist inflows that have been launched by the government should remedy some of the potential consequences of Omicron, he opined.
“The presence of Omicron will have a lasting impact on the economy and tourism in Cambodia, and the world as a whole,” Sinan said, arguing that domestic tourism would likely face minimal impact as a result of the variant.
Ministry of Tourism spokesman Chuk Chumno recently told The Post that Covid has vexed the travel industry for more than two years, prompting many countries to close their borders to inbound visitors.
“Naturally, the number of foreign tourist arrivals significantly dropped last year, with the spread of Covid-19 preventing some counties from fully reopening their doors to tourists,” Chumno said, noting that domestic tourism fared far better, recording a 35 per cent decline last year compared to 2020.
Despite the lingering presence of the coronavirus, the ministry has laid out many tourism development policies and roadmaps to establish the Kingdom as a safe place for sightseers, he said.
The ministry reported that domestic tourism receipts amounted to $230 million last year, down by 42.2 per cent from $400 million in 2020.
The tourism and travel industry accounted for 1.8 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, down from the three per cent and 12.1 per cent recorded in 2020 and 2019, respectively.