Travel operators anticipate surging Cambodia tourist arrivals in 2024

Travel operators anticipate surging Cambodia tourist arrivals in 2024

Tourism arrivals in Cambodia are projected to surge to near, if not surpass, pre-pandemic

levels this year. The figures from the previous year have been encouraging with international visitors exceeding the 5 million figure to 5.43 million, according to a report from the Ministry of Tourism recently.

Statista figures put revenue for the Kingdom’s travel and tourism market at $286.4 million this year. The projection for compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is anticipated to be 7.68 percent by 2028 with the expectation for market volume to close in on the $385 million mark.

“It is crucial for the Kingdom to preserve and nurture its unique identity and character, fostering opportunities to showcase local craftsmanship, traditions, and culture,” said Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong/Millennium Destinations. Therefore, investing in the development of Khmer handicrafts is paramount. Not only does it have the potential to boost income and create employment opportunities, but it also plays a pivotal role in preserving Cambodia’s rich heritage for future generations.

What has the most potential to increase tourism to Cambodia is more marketing and communication, said Craig Dodge, Director of Sales and Marketing of Phare Circus. There are ample attractions, activities, and experiences available for a wide variety of interests, but few overseas visitors know about them until after they arrive.

“I think that beach areas have the greatest potential to boost tourist numbers,” said Steve Lidgey, General Manager, Travel Asia a la carte. Cambodia has beaches to rival that of its neighbours, however, there is a shortage of quality hotels, plus almost no flights into Sihanoukville. It will take several years for both to happen, he added.

Cambodia is at a very important point in its tourism development where major decisions of strategic relevance will need to be taken very soon, explained Nikolas Hatz, Senior Lead Consultant and Tourism Development Expert for the GIZ ICONE program. How does Cambodia want to position itself? What type our tourism destination does Cambodia want to be? And what target group does Cambodia want to reach?

Active travellers would love the jungle trails in Angkor Park, Phnom Kulen and Kbal Spean, said Dodge. Foodies would love all the excellent Khmer, international and fusion dining options in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Travelers interested in arts, culture and history would love touring the museums, galleries, temples and cultural performances in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The more serious adventure travellers would be attracted to Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri.

“I advocate for a shift in Cambodia’s approach to tourism development,” said Germier-Hamel. Instead of solely focusing on drawing more visitors, the country should prioritize the promotion of genuine, distinctive experiences that take travellers off the beaten path, fostering deep connections with local communities.

Besides beach tourism there is great potential for Cambodia to lead the way with eco-friendly, green tourism, continued Lidgey. That goes hand-in-hand with the protection of the environment, banning single-use plastic and often incentives for the private sector to invest.

“While the untouched nature in the country’s eastern part holds enormous tourism potential, it is practically not reachable,” said Hatz. Also, if tourists should be encouraged to stay longer and spend time at the Cambodian beaches and on the Cambodian islands after visiting the temples in Siem Reap, more competitive transportation options will need to be provided, especially from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville.

The Tourism Ministry report had even better prospects further down the road with expectations of foreign tourists to close in on 7 million by 2025. This would outdo the pre-Covid figure of 6.6 million in 2019. In 2023 around 2.28 million were foreign tourist arrivals, marking an annual hike of 1,058 percent, with revenue of $1,415 million.

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