Cambodia and Thailand have pledged to fortify and expand their bilateral cooperation in the tourism sector to enhance the influx of visitors and elevate their joint appeal to foreign travellers.

The collaboration is centred around a campaign titled “Two Kingdoms, One Destination”.

The commitment was reaffirmed during an October 26 meeting at the Ministry of Tourism in Phnom Penh, with minister Sok Soken, Thai ambassador Cherdkiat Atthakor and a delegation from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in attendance.

Soken warmly welcomed the Thai delegation, emphasising his ministry’s strategic vision to transform the nation into a vibrant, competitive, sustainable and inclusive travel hotspot.

He detailed the ministry’s “BUILD Plus 3Ds” approach which focuses on five strategic pillars: Brand management; unique selling points (USP) marketing; quality inbound travel; tourism endowment and diversification; and development of competitive tourism sites.

Atthakor commented on the blossoming tourism relationship between the two kingdoms, noting that the leaders of both countries recently agreed to propel the Cambodia-Thailand Joint Action Plan on Tourism Cooperation for 2023-25 into action.

A press release from the ministry noted the discussions from a previous meeting between Prime Minister Hun Manet and his Thai counterpart Srettha Thavisin, during the latter’s September visit to Phnom Penh, where both sides deliberated on the execution of the aforementioned action plans.

Khieu Thy, president of the Khmer Angkor Tourist Guide Association, said the country’s travel sector had been predominantly dependent on visitors from neighbouring countries, specifically Thailand and Vietnam.

He noted that before the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc in late 2019, most visitors hailed from China; however, recent trends indicate Thailand as the primary source.

With sound collaboration between the government and the private sector, he anticipates a surge in foreign travellers, including Thais, by the end of 2023.

“The private sector ardently wishes for an upswing in numbers. It’s paramount for both familial and national economic growth,” he noted.

Data from the ministry shows that Cambodia welcomed over 3.5 million foreign visitors between January and August this year, a 250.8% increase from the same period of 2022.

Despite this growth, the figures are still 19.7% shy of the 2019 records, just before the pandemic.

Thailand was the predominant source for the first eight months of this year, accounting for over 1.186 million tourists, followed by Vietnam (641,758), China (364,844) and Laos (212,984). Other significant contributors included the US, South Korea, Indonesia and France.

For reference, 2019 witnessed Cambodia’s peak international footfall with over 6.61 million guests, marking a 6.6 per cent rise from 2018. Of these, Thailand contributed 466,493 visitors (7.1 per cent of the total), while China led the tally with 2.36 million, followed by Vietnam with 908,803.