The importance of collaborative efforts from all relevant stakeholders to boost the country’s tourism sector has been reiterated by the Ministry of Tourism. The call to action comes as Cambodia welcomed over 3.9 million foreign visitors in the first nine months of 2023.

Tourism minister Sok Soken highlighted last week the ministry’s efforts to increase foreign visitor arrivals and extend their stays. He underscored the aim of offering unique experiences in heritage and culture, stressing the need for active engagement from both direct and indirect contributors to the industry.

“We aspire for guests to immerse themselves in unique experiences relating to our heritage and culture, as well as other Cambodian products. Our goal is to establish Cambodia as a premier global tourism destination,” he said. 

The minister warned against complacency, asserting that without the private sector and relevant actors’ involvement, travel experiences could deteriorate. He stressed the historical challenges and the need for comprehensive stakeholder engagement to ensure visitors leave with lasting, positive impressions.

Khieu Thy, president of the Khmer Angkor Tourist Guide Association (KATGA), acknowledged the private sector’s important role in enhancing the country’s appeal. 

“The private sector is eager to collaborate with authorities to rejuvenate [the sector]. Although Covid-19 concerns have subsided, the number of foreigners visiting Cambodia is still modest compared to neighbouring countries,” he stated.

He noted that the country lacks sufficient tourism products to enhance its appeal to foreign visitors, especially in terms of souvenirs, compared to neighbouring countries like Thailand. 

He mentioned that most travellers stay in the country for only 3-4 days, a shorter duration than in neighbouring countries, where visits often exceed a week.

Between January and September, the country welcomed 3,926,882 foreigners, marking a 210.2% increase from the 1,265,772 recorded in the same period in 2022. Of these, people from Thailand, Vietnam, China and Laos comprised 2,726,787, accounting for 69.44% of total foreign visits, according to the ministry.

Thailand was the leading source of tourists, contributing 1,339,540, or 34.1% of the total, a 189.5% increase from the previous year. This was followed by Vietnam with 730,075 (18.6%), marking a 156% rise. China accounted for 405,514 (10.3%), showing a 549.6% increase, while Laos contributed 251,658 (6.4%), a 548.9% rise.

Visitors from other major countries also showed increases. 

The US accounted for 129,068 visitors (3.6%), marking a 159.2% increase. Korea contributed 125,732 (3.2%), a substantial rise of 245.4%. Indonesia added 93,166 (2.4%), an 86.7% increase. France saw 73,632 (1.9%), a 136.3% rise. Russia, with a remarkable 2,361.1% increase, brought in 68,469 visitors (1.7%) and the UK contributed 68,229 (1.7%), up 203.6%, as per the ministry.