The ongoing Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) 2022 in Vietnam is likely to materially increase the number of travellers to Cambodia – which is set to hold next year’s edition, consolidating the recovery momentum in the Kingdom’s embattled tourism sector, following more than two years of Covid-19 disruptions, according to insiders.

After a hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the MTF returned in in-person format to Hoi An city, Quang Nam province for October 9-14, under the theme “Rebuild Tourism, Rebound with Resilience” this year.

The forum aims to contribute to post-Covid tourism recovery in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) by strengthening outreach and cooperation between the six member countries, or those that share the Mekong River, namely Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Ministry of Tourism director-general for Tourism Development and International Cooperation Thong Rathasak, who led a Cambodian delegation to the forum, said the event would be a key channel to promote the tourism potential of the Kingdom. “Through this forum, Cambodia will promote the ‘Visit Cambodia Year 2023’ campaign,” he said.

Members of the delegation will take part in key meetings, including one on the progress of the Second GMS Tourism Infrastructure for Inclusive Growth Project (TIIGP2), a bilateral meeting between Destination Mekong and the tourism ministry, and the 50th Meeting of the GMS Tourism Working Group (TWG-50), the ministry said in a statement.

Other events include a Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) Board Meeting, the 3rd Meeting of Cambodia-Viet Nam Joint Tourism Working Group, and the handover of the MTF Flag to the Kingdom for next year’s edition of the event, scheduled from March 16-21 in Preah Sihanouk province under the theme “Rethink for Resilience and Digitalization”.

Speaking to The Post, Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin enthused that the forum would provide a platform to promote the potential of the Cambodian tourism sector, arguing that the Kingdom is a world leader in terms of controlling the Covid-19 pandemic as well as high vaccination rates.

“I believe that through this forum, there’ll be loads more international tourists coming to visit Cambodia,” she said, commenting that no significant barriers remain for foreigners to enter the Kingdom.

Tourism ministry figures show that Cambodia welcomed 998,272 international arrivals in the first eight months of 2022, up 720 per cent year-on-year, albeit down 77 per cent from the same time in 2019. August alone accounted for more than a quarter, at 254,813, up 7.65 per cent over July (236,697), which was up 44.95 per cent from June (163,298).

Thailand and Vietnam were the top source markets for arrivals, accounting for 348,660 and 235,546, respectively, representing year-on-year rises of 477 per cent and 3,017.3 per cent. Also on the list of top source markets were: China, the US, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, France, the UK and Laos.

Of note, if the number of international visitors for each remaining month this year is equal to or greater than the August figure, the full-year total would top 2.017 million, or more than the two-million upper bound of the estimated range offered by the ministry as recently as September.