Around 100 tourism operators, as well as provincial leaders and officials, gathered in Siem Reap recently to strategise attracting more international tourists, as the provincial airport’s mid-October opening approaches.

Philip Set Kao, president of the Siem Reap Tourism Club Association, underscored the significant impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the tourism sector. This impact has translated into a notable reduction in the number of foreign tourists visiting the province, while neighboring countries have witnessed a surge in visitor numbers surpassing Cambodia’s figures.

Kao stated that currently, tourism-related businesses like hotels are only operating at 60 to 70 per cent capacity.

He explained that the association convened the August 19 meeting to collectively explore ways to enhance Siem Reap’s appeal to tourists.

Kao highlighted that although Asian tourists currently show limited interest in visiting the province, the imminent opening of Siem Reap Angkor International Airport is expected to attract more visitors due to increased flight options.

Siem Reap provincial governor Yun Linne noted that Cambodia’s tourism sector, particularly in Siem Reap, remains modest and short-term.

Linne emphasised the need for public-private collaboration to bolster the tourism industry. He acknowledged the vital role of the association in fostering cooperation and creating an environment conducive to fostering both domestic and international tourism.

Mam Rithy, president of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation, expressed the necessity for stakeholders to collaborate in devising fresh strategies for enticing international tourists. He urged revisiting traditional approaches, which have been in practice for nearly 30 years, and adapting them to the contemporary landscape.

Rithy emphasised the need to modernise methods, citing neighboring countries’ advancements in tourism. He called for a departure from the sluggish growth experienced by Cambodia’s tourism and a shift towards revitalisation.

“I believe numerous discussions on Cambodian tourism have taken place, including various sub-national ministerial meetings, yet the sector continues to face challenges, growing slowly and struggling to compete. It’s time to refine and advance our established methods,” he said.

Rithy envisions a bright future for Siem Reap’s tourism, emphasising the pivotal role of local stakeholders in crafting strategies that will captivate visitors. While the new airport holds promise in attracting international tourists, it is clear that supplementing it with a range of innovative approaches will be the key to unlocking the city’s full potential.