Domestic tourism has been on a rather negative trajectory this month as Omicron fears persist, even as Covid-19 response efforts turn rampant. But observers have high hopes that the Khmer New Year holiday next month will breathe new life into the beleaguered industry.
Holidaymakers made 659,426 domestic trips across Cambodia over the six days in the first, second and fourth weekends this month, down 6.95% in the first, third and fourth weekends of February, indicate the notices of the Ministry of Tourism available to the public.
Foreign residents accounted for 35,318 of trips this month (or 5.36% of the total), up 24.9% from the corresponding six days in February.
Preah Sihanouk provincial tourism department director Taing Sochet Kresna told the Post that visitor numbers to the coastal province have been trending down over the past two months due to concerns over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
He attributed the decline to “tightened security checks” at Preah Sihanouk, commenting on the big difference from when Chinese and other foreign residents flocked to the province each weekend.
International tourism has yet to experience a significant recovery. Sochet Kresna noted that international charter flights to the province have not seen a significant increase since Cambodia opened its doors to fully vaccinated arrivals in November.
“I have received information that ASEAN countries will be fully reopened after the Khmer New Year, so I understand that international tourism growth may rebound,” he said. The Khmer New Year falls on April 14 this year.
Sochet Kresna expects domestic tourist traffic to resume during the upcoming holidays, as it did during the Lunar New Year season. He confirmed that guesthouse and hotel bookings were steadily increasing.
By contrast, in nearby Kep, provincial tourism department director Som Chenda told the Post on March 28 that the province had seen an increase in tourism since the start of 2022 that had extended into March.
“Most” local travelers visiting provinces such as Kampot and Preah Sihanouk stop over in Kep, he said, sharing that around 50,000 tourists had visited his province this month alone.
But even as travelers to Kep rebound, Chenda says the province will not let up on implementing Covid-19 “three do’s and three don’t” guidelines and minimum standard operating procedures (SOPs) for tourism businesses to prevent an outbreak of the disease in tourist areas.
With “accommodations such as hotels, guesthouses, resorts, etc.,” the senior provincial tourism official expressed confidence in a huge increase in the number of visitors to the province over the New Year khmer.
Advisor to the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, Ho Vandy, said that despite global outbreaks, the Ministry of Health has been able to keep the spread of Omicron to a minimum, confirmed cases of Covid- 19 recently showing signs of slowing down.
He pointed out that this offered “positive signs” as the holidays approached and the possibility of holding large Songkran events in the provinces, which he said could attract more tourists – if prevention efforts of Covid-19 remain until then. .
At the same time, he said, international tourists could also increase as ASEAN countries reopen and ease entry and exit requirements.
“By April 1, ASEAN will be more open – some countries will also have lifted Covid-19 restrictions. Vietnam reopened on March 18, while Thailand and Singapore are expected to reopen in early April,” said the tourism veteran.
However, alongside reopenings and increased intra-regional tourism movement, Vandy expects ASEAN countries to take a proper ‘new normal’ approach, which he sees as a priority to revive the sector. tourism during and after the pandemic.