Following the restoration and subsequent opening of Angkor Wat to the public, Cambodia’s tourism industry experienced significant growth. Tourists were particularly drawn to Angkor Wat due to its intricate architecture, making it a truly remarkable destination. This surge in tourism resulted in a threefold increase in visitor numbers, leading to higher employment opportunities and income generation. However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Chinese travelers visiting Southeast Asia has declined.
Tourism experts are optimistic about a gradual increase in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Cambodia starting in 2024. Prime Minister Hun Manet highlighted this during bilateral talks at the recent Beijing Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit. Representatives from the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) held meetings with various private sector stakeholders to enhance bilateral investment and tourism.
The travel patterns of Chinese tourists were disrupted due to the impact of COVID-19, with concerns about the pandemic’s negative effects and limitations on flight capacity. Internal political issues in certain regions also deterred Chinese tourists. Recent reports suggest that Chinese travelers are now shifting their preferences away from crowded destinations in Southeast Asia and are showing more interest in exploring unknown and exotic locales.
However, Cambodia has taken steps to enhance flight capacity, and the soft inaugural of Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (SAI) on October 16 marked a significant milestone in this effort. This development has had a substantial impact on air travel, as evidenced by the doubling of the daily number of air passengers carried by the same 17 airlines. This number has increased from just over 1,000 at the old airport to 2,600 at the new airport, showcasing the positive changes taking place in the tourism sector.
Other notable countries, including the United States, South Korea, Indonesia, and France, are also expected to contribute to the increase in tourist arrivals during the high season. The improved infrastructure, expanded flight capacity, and the shifting preferences of travelers toward more exotic destinations are likely to make Cambodia a more attractive and sought-after location for visitors from these countries, leading to a possible boost in tourism during the peak season.