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Tourism in Cambodia after the COVID-19 crisis, a new insight by b. Consulting & All Dreams Cambodia

Updated: Feb 16


Following the organization of the Asean Tourism Forum from January 16 to 22, 2022, it is time to review the main tourism development issues for Cambodia.

Will Cambodian tourism get stronger from these difficult times? There are a few encouraging signs that the Kingdom could be a top winner for South East Asia tourism recovery. One of the most recent remarkable assets is surely a strong collaboration between Ministry of Tourism (MOT), governmental agencies and the private sector to define Cambodian tourism strategy.


Nevertheless, some issues and challenges remain and have to be resolved to ensure sustainable development.


In this new insight, b. Consulting & All Dreams Cambodia experts analyzed the following topics :

  • One of the highest vaccination rates in the world

  • Sustained investments despite a historic crisis

  • Cambodia must become a standalone destination

  • Private and public initiatives to boost tourism promotion

  • The incredible boom of domestic tourism


 
Valuable good crisis management

The Cambodian government's management of the crisis is certainly one of the main assets in the race to reopen to tourists.


source : ourworldindata.org


The Royal Government has conducted a voluntary and effective vaccination campaign. According to the Khmer Times newspaper, 91% of the population is now fully vaccinated (85% according to international institutes)*, allowing free movement throughout the country.


In addition, the continued operation of Phnom Penh airport even at the peak of the health crisis and the recent reopening of Siem Reap airport (definitively reopening on December 15, 2021) are encouraging signs of the country's willingness to open up.

At last, the recent decisions to ease the entry conditions makes Cambodia one the easiest destinations to travel. This strategy is much clearer than those of neighboring countries.

The Asian Tourism Forum, held in Sihanoukville, is a perfect example as it is one of the first regional events to be organized in person.


 
Steady public & private investments in infrastructure despite Covid 19

Many successful projects for transportation infrastructure upgrading throughout the country have been supported since 2020, showing the authorities' will to be ready for future challenges. In a very uncertain Covid-19 time, decisions to invest in existing or new infrastructure were made, to cite a few: the ambitious renovation of Siem Reap's 38 roads, the development of bicycle paths along the river, the expansion of national and main roads serving the country's major cities, the construction project of Sen Monorom (Mondulkiri) airport, the development of the Kampot deep water port…


Siem Reap, new roads project


In this momentum, other projects are being studied for the coming years such as the upgrading of the existing train routes (PP/ Sihanoukville - PP/ Poipet) into express railways and the opening of new railroads especially towards Siem Reap.

Small downside: in several provinces, road construction projects have been delayed and travel times with the capital remain long. In terms of national transportation, Cambodia has to catch up to neighboring countries like Thailand (roads and domestics flights) or Vietnam (domestics flights).


In addition, the construction of the 2 new international airports in the regions of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are well advanced, Dara Sakor is already open, which suggests an increase in passenger traffic.


New Phnom Penh Airport project


The number of airports under construction necessarily implies the creation of a leading national company providing long-haul flights. It will take many more months of work to obtain IATA certifications and compliance before it is put into service. However, Cambodia is still dependent on international companies serving the country and still has no direct lines.

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines, Asiana & Korean Air, Thai Airways & Bangkok Airways, Lanmei Airlines, Eva Air,... to name but a few of the airlines that serve the Kingdom which has just taken over the presidency of Asean for one year.


Continuous private investment in hotels has enabled a considerable improvement in Cambodian hosting offer. The recent arrival of international brands in Phnom Penh such as Marriott, Novotel, Hyatt, Ibis Budget, M Gallery, completes an already wide choice for tourists, from dormitories to all-inclusive luxury resorts. Chinese investment in Sihanoukville is just as remarkable. Surely a strong sign of international hospitality groups' interest to develop their portfolio in Cambodia.

In fine, these recent additions to the existing hotel accommodations will launch a new touristic image with upgraded international standards.


Click on the image to access the document


 
Towards a standalone destination

Today, as the return of international tourists is still in its infancy, it seems that the first requests are for an average stay of 10 days compared to a previous 4.5 days in 2017. An encouraging sign!?


The ecotourism development in addition to urban tourism is the winning package.


Wild landscapes, authentic rural way of life, white sandy beaches on preserved islands, cultural heritage sites... Beyond the iconic Angkor temples, "the little country with the big heart" has a lot to offer to visitors and is no longer considered as a simple 3-day extension in an Asian tour.


The country is now riding the wave of this “new green trend” and is multiplying sustainable tourism development projects such as the "Cambodia Sustainable Landscape and Ecotourism Project" planned for a period of six years (2020-2025) and aiming to improve the management of protected areas and enhance ecotourism opportunities through the Cardamom landscape and the Tonle Sap Lake.


In view of the multiplication of studies in this field (AFD, European Union, JICA, World Bank), this sector will be in very strong development in the years to come.


During the last 2 years that have deprived tourists of travel, professionals from the public and private sectors of tourism have relied on the Internet (digital campaigns, virtual tours, webinars ...) to highlight the assets of Cambodia and show that the country offers a complete experience and a diversity of landscapes and activities.

Yet, Cambodia will not be able to become a standalone destination, without developing long haul flights.


 
Private and public initiatives to boost tourism promotion

The Ministry of Tourism (MOT) has recently started with the support of Agence Française de Développement (AFD) to develop studies and actions such as campaigns with communication agencies, to promote Cambodia throughout the world. Among these positive indicators, we could cite the signature for a state-of-the-art international marketing campaign with the worldwide leader company MMGY Hills Balfour involving both MOT and Private Sector, the creation of Beyond Media Cambodia, a France-Cambodia press agency (which already led to a series of articles and shows) or the collaboration between MOT and Redhill Communications for the “Rediscover the Wonders of Cambodia” campaign aiming to increase domestic tourism.


The incredible boom of domestic tourism

Speaking of domestic tourism, this segment has seen a meteoric rise since 2020 and Cambodians who could no longer travel abroad have taken great pleasure in rediscovering their country.


The latest data show that provinces welcomed 1 million visitors during the 3 days Chinese new year holidays (February 1st, 2022 - respectively accounted for 931,308 and 16,189 trips to Phnom Penh (258,069), and the provinces of Battambang (193,567) Kampot (66,534) and Siem Reap (58,953). An increase of 6.15% compared to the same period last year.


Cambodia has seen its domestic tourism in steady rise over the last 2 years. It is now a real target segment to take advantage of.


With a young generation eager to discover new leisure activities, new concepts have blossomed in the country : camping, trekking, hiking, cycling are now activities appreciated by all.


Besides, b. Consulting recently conducted feasibility studies on all inclusive resorts and eco-farm in Mondulkiri and Kampot provinces, which clearly shows the interest of investors in the development of the rural tourism sector.


Yet, despite all this pretty good news, Cambodia will have to face many challenges to ensure sustainable development.


 

This article is co-written with All Dreams Cambodia, leading receptive agency in Cambodia.


For more information :


Benedict Ravel,


Senior Consultant,

Market trend analyst


benedict@bconsultingcambodia.com


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