Cambodia's private sector welcomes the possibility of resuming passenger flights to Thailand, which they say could help alleviate the crushing impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on sectors such as retail and tourism.
This comes as mall operators in Thailand called on the government to resume flights from CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) nations, aiming to stimulate the country’s reeling retail industry.
Mayuree Chaipromprasit, senior executive vice-president for marketing at Siam Piwat Co, the operator of Iconsiam and Siam Paragon, said CLMV tourists present a low risk of spreading Covid-19 in Thailand, citing the low number of reported cases in the region.
She said they have high purchasing power and account for the bulk of visitors to retail outlets operated by her company, Bangkok Post reported on Wednesday.
Visitors to the inter-connected Siam Center, Siam Discovery and Siam Paragon in Pathum Wan district’s Pathum Wan commune in the Thai capital Bangkok comprise of about 40 per cent foreigners, of which some 30 per cent are from the CLMV region, she said.
If the figures are accurate, this means that around 12 per cent – or nearly one in eight – of all visitors to the three shopping malls are from a CLMV country.
Bangkok Post quoted Mayuree as saying: “Tourists from the CLMV have spent an average of 100,000 baht [$3,250] per visit . . . These shoppers enjoy a variety of services, from fashion to beauty, helping distribute income to various business owners.
“We would like the government to encourage spending in Bangkok, which suffered a greater impact from the pandemic than provincial areas.”
The Mall Group Co Ltd chief marketing officer Voralak Tulaphorn said that given the Thai retail sector’s reliance on tourism, the company expects the 3.6 trillion baht industry to shrink at a double-digit rate this year, reported Bangkok Post.
She was quoted as saying: “About 50 per cent of our customers have resumed shopping, but sales have yet to recover accordingly because most shoppers who come to the stores have specific needs they are shopping for instead of just browsing as they did before the pandemic.”
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng welcomed the plea, saying that the resumption of flights would not only generate economic activity in Thailand, but also in Cambodia.
He noted that Cambodia had not banned flights with Thailand. “Resumption of flights and the resumption of business activities will be a major boon, not only benefiting them, but also Cambodia.
“I support the idea, because our government has already put measurements in place concerning foreign passengers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” he said.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin also welcomed the proposition, saying it will help spur trade and tourism exchange between the countries despite the coronavirus not being fully contained.
She said: “We’ve observed that the coronavirus spread has hit purchasing power and national economies hard. National leaders have taken very strict measurements to prevent further spread.
“The situation has seen vast improvement. We cannot wait until the pandemic is over to resume business – we will die or face bankruptcy.”
Cambodian government imposed compulsory Covid-19 prerequisites on foreigners arriving in the country, including the possession of a minimum $50,000 health insurance, Covid-19-free health certificate and a $3,000 deposit for health checks.
Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Thailand was worth about $3.1 billion in the first four months of the year, up 18.3 per cent over the same period last year, data from the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok show.
International tourist arrivals to Cambodia took a sharp 51.97 per cent nose dive in the first four months of the year to 1,160,067 from the 2,415,509 during the year-ago period, data from the Ministry of Tourism show.
But Thai tourists continued to visit in droves, numbering 153,811 during the period, up 21 per cent year-on-year from 127,085.