From Crisis to Recovery: Exploring the Post-Pandemic State of Travel in Cambodia

Curious about the current state of travel in Cambodia? Learn about the latest trends and discover the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Travel & Tourism in Cambodia Thumbnail

Cambodia, a Southeast Asian country rich in history, culture, and natural wonders, has long been a captivating destination for travellers from around the world. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant challenges to travel in Cambodia, impacting the livelihood of millions of Cambodians who rely on tourism for their income.

Despite the hardships, there is renewed hope for the recovery of Cambodia’s tourism industry, fueled in part by the government’s dedicated efforts to revive this crucial sector. As the world begins to emerge from the pandemic, authorities have taken proactive steps to create an enabling environment for tourism to flourish once again.

In this article, we will explore the latest trends in travel in Cambodia, and discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Drawing on insights from the recent Consumer Report Cambodia 2023, conducted in collaboration with local agency Confluences and based on responses from over 1,000 Cambodians, we will explore Cambodians’ current attitudes toward travel and share the latest developments in Cambodia’s tourism sector.

What is Cambodia most famous for?

When exploring Cambodia, there is an abundance of incredible experiences awaiting adventurous travellers. From ancient wonders to natural marvels, the country offers a diverse range of activities to indulge in. At the heart of Cambodia’s fame is the magnificent Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage site and an icon of architectural brilliance. This ancient temple complex attracts visitors from around the world, offering a glimpse into the grandeur of the Khmer Empire. Beyond Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s landscape is adorned with numerous ancient temples such as Bayon, Ta Prohm, and Preah Khan, each showcasing exquisite stone carvings and providing a window into Cambodia’s rich historical and cultural legacy.

In addition to its cultural treasures, Cambodia offers stunning natural landscapes. The coastal town of Sihanoukville entices visitors with its pristine beaches and vibrant beachside atmosphere, while the Cardamom Mountains provide a haven for nature lovers with their lush forests and diverse wildlife. Cambodia’s warm and welcoming people, known for their friendliness and hospitality, contribute to the country’s charm. Travellers can immerse themselves in the local culture by interacting with the locals, exploring traditional markets, and savouring delicious Khmer cuisine. Cambodia’s affordability compared to other tourist destinations in the region adds to its appeal, making it an attractive choice for budget-conscious travellers.

The findings of our report revealed that a remarkable 35.13% of respondents chose Cambodia as their top choice for an ideal travel destination in Asia. This preference cuts across all genders, age ranges, and locations, solidifying the nation’s appeal. In comparison, Japan secured the second spot with 14.77%, closely followed by the neighbouring Southeast Asian country, Thailand, with 14.37% of the votes.

Travel in Cambodia: Cambodians' Ideal Travel Destination

Recovering from the Pandemic

Tourism is a key focus of the Cambodian government’s socio-economic development strategy. The sector has been growing steadily in recent years, with both domestic and international tourism on the rise. In 2019, Cambodia welcomed a staggering 11.32 million domestic tourists, while international visitor numbers reached 6.61 million, representing a 6.6% increase from the previous year. The tourism sector also played a significant role in job creation, employing approximately 630,000 individuals and contributing 12.1% to the country’s GDP.

However, like many other nations reliant on tourism, Cambodia faced the harsh realities of the pandemic. The enforced closure of borders and stringent travel restrictions led to a sharp decline in international arrivals. In 2020, Cambodia recorded a meagre 1.31 million tourist arrivals, with 1.15 million visitors in the first quarter alone. This represents a staggering 80% decline compared to the previous year, highlighting the devastating impact of the pandemic on the industry.

Fortunately, after a difficult two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry and travel in Cambodia are showing signs of recovery. In 2022, the country welcomed 2.2 million international visitors, an 11% increase from the previous year’s 196,495. This growth reflects the renewed confidence of travellers in exploring Cambodia’s cultural and natural attractions.

Despite this upward trajectory in travel in Cambodia, there is still a prevailing sense of caution among people when it comes to travel. This sentiment is expressed in the same Standard Insights report, which found that close to half (44.1%) of Cambodians do not feel safe when it comes to travelling amidst the current COVID-19 situation. In contrast, only 22.96% express a sense of feeling safe while travelling. These findings reflect the prevailing concerns surrounding health and safety among the Cambodian population and their impact on travel decisions.

Cambodians' level of safety when travelling with COVID-19

This sentiment echoes the concerns expressed by respondents when asked about their top worries regarding travel in 2023. A significant majority of 65.5% expressed worries about health and safety, indicating the persisting apprehensions surrounding COVID-19 despite the country’s successful vaccination efforts. Alongside these concerns, there is also growing unease about the escalating costs (35.1%) associated with travel in 2023, driven by inflation. The rising prices of transportation, accommodation, and other travel expenses have sparked worries about the financial implications for individuals, particularly those with limited budgets.

Read more: Soaring Concern Over Inflation in Cambodia

Cambodians' biggest worry about travel in 2023

These multifaceted concerns regarding health, safety, and affordability highlight the challenges that lie ahead for those planning to travel in Cambodia and beyond.

Government Efforts to Revive Travel in Cambodia

The Cambodian government is actively implementing a comprehensive plan to revive the tourism sector and promote economic growth following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Cambodia’s economy is projected to grow at a rate of 5.5% in 2023 and 6.0% in 2024, mainly driven by the recovery of tourism and the services sector.

To achieve a sustainable and competitive tourism industry, the government has introduced a roadmap for the recovery of Cambodia’s tourism sector from 2020 to 2025. This roadmap encompasses measures to combat COVID-19, develop new tourism products, and provide training to enhance the skills of the workforce. These initiatives aim to attract higher-value tourism and improve Cambodia’s global competitiveness.

Moreover, recognizing the importance of resilience in the face of economic shocks, Cambodia has received significant support from the World Bank. Recently, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a $274 million credit for the Cambodia Growth and Resilience Development Policy Operation. This financing will support reforms that not only stimulate economic growth but also enhance Cambodia’s ability to overcome future challenges.

In addition to government efforts, the private sector can play a crucial role in boosting tourism in Cambodia. Jacques Guichandut of All Dreams Cambodia suggested that

…launching campaigns with popular brands attached as sponsors offering prizes to be won could help boost local tourism. We have seen the growth of international tourism in Q1 2023, and we hope this continues buoyed by a return to pre-COVID levels within a couple of years.”

With focused efforts from the government, along with support from international organizations and the private sector, Cambodia is poised to revitalize its tourism industry and drive economic growth. Through strategic reforms, enhanced competitiveness, and sustainable practices, Cambodia aims to establish a resilient and thriving tourism sector that contributes to the overall development of the country.

To Wrap Up

In conclusion, Cambodia’s tourism industry is resilient and determined to recover from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government’s comprehensive plan, supported by international organizations, aims to revive the sector and promote economic growth. Despite lingering concerns about health, safety, and affordability, Cambodia is making focused efforts to address these issues and restore confidence in travel. As the country progresses on its path to recovery, travellers can look forward to experiencing Cambodia’s captivating history, cultural treasures, and natural wonders once again.


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