In a message marking World Tourism Day 2023, themed “Tourism and Green Investment”, Prime Minister Hun Manet expressed his anticipation of a significant increase in the number of both domestic travellers and international arrivals under the Visit Cambodia 2023 campaign, while also advocating for the continuing enhancement of the sector.

The initiative aims to attract approximately five million international visitors in 2024, a 120 per cent jump year on year, and around 17 million domestic travellers. Projections for 2028 suggest international visitor numbers could rise as high as eight million.

In his September 27 letter, Manet underscored the critical role of tourism in bolstering green economic development and fostering innovative investment models for resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth. Despite the commendable increase of visitors over the past decade, the sector faced severe challenges amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, with numerous operations experiencing heightened pressure.

The first eight months of this year have witnessed a rebound, recording over 3.5 million international travellers – a 250.8 per cent surge compared to the same period last year, reaching 80 per cent of the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Local travellers have also increased, with 12.38 million marking a 62.5 per cent rise.

Manet expressed his commitment to emulating the exemplary efforts of former Prime Minister Hun Sen in rejuvenating and expanding the sector. He advocated for the Ministry of Tourism to enhance investment, workforce training and digital transformation and foster partnerships to position Cambodia as a “premier” global tourist destination.

To further this vision, Manet urged relevant ministries, institutions, development partners and the private sector to collaborate closely in reinforcing human resource development plans, especially focusing on training individuals from the informal economy.

Tourism minister Sok Soken has initiated three core strategies to revive the sector post-pandemic: developing tourist products, stimulating the industry and marketing. These efforts necessitate widespread coordination to ensure the delivery of high-quality, safe and appealing services, with the anticipation of a rise in international visitors this coming October.

During a meeting with tour associations and operators on September 26, discussions with Soken and private sector representatives focused on resolving key issues and enhancing cooperation and publicity, aiming to establish the Kingdom as an important tourist destination in the world arena.

Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter, noted that this was the initial meeting with the new minister, and specific issues are yet to be addressed.

Sinan remained cautious about predicting visitor growth. “We will wait and see what the situation first.”

He observed a hesitancy within the private sector to actively promote Cambodian destinations, highlighting a reliance on government initiatives and a reluctance to independently boost advertising efforts.

“All stakeholders need to join together, not sit around complaining about a declining number of visitors,” he said, emphasising the collective responsibility in promoting tourism.

He further commented on the sector’s heavy dependency on neighbouring countries, remarking that this reliance, coupled with a lack of increased competition with international destinations, hinders the country’s standing on the global tourism stage.