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Cambodians roll out the welcome mat

By YANG HAN in Hong Kong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-01-10 09:10

Tourists visit the Angkor Wat in the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province, Cambodia on Dec 17, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

Long-awaited return of Chinese visitors top of mind for tourism sector, officials

Cambodia is rolling out the welcome mat for Chinese tourists after Beijing eased travel restrictions under its optimized COVID-19 strategy.

"The whole of Cambodia is waiting for the return of the Chinese tourists and we are ready to welcome them," said Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia chapter. He was responding to the much-anticipated gradual resumption of outbound tourism from China that came in on Sunday.

Given the long relationship between the two countries, Sinan said he expects the return of not only the tourists but also investors. He told China Daily that both the public and the private sectors in Cambodia have been in discussions on how to prepare for the potential influx of Chinese visitors.

The number of Chinese visitors from the Chinese mainland is estimated to reach 1 million in 2023, a tenfold increase from 2022, the country's Tourism Minister Thong Khon was quoted as saying in a report by The Phnom Penh Post on Friday.

Khon said the government has prepared "clear plans and programs" to cater to Chinese tourists.

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Cambodia, and the nation will launch a "Cambodia-China Good Friend" campaign to welcome Chinese tourists.

"Cambodia is pleased to welcome Chinese tourists to visit Cambodia without any health conditions," the tourism ministry said in a statement on Friday, noting that the country is ready to receive both Chinese and other international tourists.

The statement said China's easing of coronavirus-related travel restrictions will give a big boost to the tourism sector in all countries since the Asian giant has traditionally been a huge source of tourists for the world.

In 2019, more than 2.3 million Chinese tourists visited Cambodia, accounting for 35.7 percent of the international tourist arrivals in the country and about $1.8 billion of the total tourism revenue of nearly $5 billion, according to the ministry. In the same year, tourism-related investment from China amounted to more than half of Cambodia's total foreign direct investment.

"Chinese investors and tourists importantly contribute to the growth of tourism and the socioeconomic development of Cambodia," the ministry said, noting Cambodia has always focused on promoting strategies to attract Chinese tourists, such as the China Ready strategy for the Cambodian tourism industry.

The statement came after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Jan 2 that the presence of Chinese tourists is vital to the country's tourism and economic growth and that the country will not follow other nations in imposing any additional coronavirus-related restrictions on arrivals from the Chinese mainland.

Important market

Before the pandemic, China was the world's most important outbound tourism market. In 2019, Chinese citizens made 155 million trips abroad and spent nearly $255 billion, accounting for almost one-fifth of global tourism spending, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Sinan said the Cambodian government is expecting to see a big number of arrivals from China.

But Sinan said Cambodia will face competition from other popular tourist destinations in the region, such as Thailand and Vietnam, as they, too, have no restrictions on Chinese travelers.

Sinan said more details from China regarding regulations for inbound and outbound traveling will be needed for the tourism industry in Cambodia to get better prepared.

With the Chinese New Year falling on Jan 22 this year, Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said she expects to see a bigger number of Chinese tourists going abroad after the holiday.

With the upcoming return of Chinese tourists, Cambodia is expected to receive about 7 million international tourists by 2025, according to the tourism ministry.

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