Cambodia expects to see an increase in the number of Russian holidaymakers, especially as it pushes to reopen the tourism sector to international visitors who are fully-vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, once the situation allows.
The note of optimism came after an online meeting between Ministry of Tourism director-general for Tourism Development and International Cooperation Thong Rathsak and Demyan Smilevets, head of the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism’s Department for International Cooperation at the weekend.
The ongoing health crisis has driven a sharp decline in the number of Russian tourists visiting Cambodia, at just 43 in the first five months of this year, down 99.80 per cent year-on-year from 21,834, ministry figures indicate.
Ministry director for International and ASEAN Cooperation Try Chhiv said Smilevets accepted the Cambodian side’s request to expand tourism cooperation between the two countries, especially in the Kingdom’s initial tourism reopening phases.
During the meeting, the two sides also discussed issues such as training Russian-speaking tour guides, an online road show with the direct participation of Russian tour operators, and study tours, with emphasis on those to be organised by travel or media companies.
They also touched on Russian support for the implementation of a tourism restoration and revival roadmap, direct flights between Cambodia and Russia, and setting up an ASEAN-Russia tourism centre.
The ministry noted that the number of Russian tourists visiting Cambodia had increased significantly before Covid, especially along the coast.
Cambodia and Russia are currently studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) to promote and strengthen trade and investment cooperation on a larger scale.
On December 1, Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Sok Sopheak led a ministerial delegation to meet Russian ambassador to Cambodia Anatoly Borovik via video link.
Sopheak requested the Russian side to invite Cambodian businessmen and investors to events organised by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation down the line and introduce them to a new world of trade and investment opportunities.
“In this context, Cambodia needs more investment from the Russian Federation, especially in the field of light and medium machinery to strengthen the Cambodian industry’s competitive edge and increase exports,” he said.
In this spirit, he said, Cambodia expresses its intent to conduct a feasibility study on a bilateral FTA with Russia as soon as possible.
Bilateral trade between the two countries was to the tune of $45.15 million in the first 10 months of 2020, representing an increase of 4.5 per cent year-on-year, commerce ministry statistics show.
Of that amount, Cambodia exported some $38.75 million worth of products, down 4.8 per cent year-on-year, and imported $6.4 million, gaining a gargantuan 155.68 per cent year-on-year, the data show.
And in 2019, total trade between the two countries reached more than $55.39 million, sinking 40.44 per cent from the $93.00 million logged in 2018, according to the ministry.