Cambodia breaks all records for tourist entry numbers

Chinese visitors are welcomed at Siem Reap international airport earlier this year.

With 3.4 million tourists journeying by air in the first eight months of 2023, Cambodia has skyrocketed its 2022 entries by almost 200 percent. Unsurprisingly in view of the close economic partnership between Phnom Penh and Beijing, the Chinese have provided the biggest boost to the Cambodian coffers. Next month, a new airport near Siem Reap will open and is expected to accommodate wide-bodied jets from all continents. Tourist authorities anticipate 7.6 million arrivals into the country within three years.

The Cambodian government has encouraged Chinese tourism by, for example, cancelling last January the need to show at least US$1,000 at immigration counters (sometimes not enforced) and permitting payment in yuan, rather than the American dollar, for some tourist services. Chinese citizens are entitled to a 30- days visa-on-arrival requiring a payment of US$30, although most travel in groups and complete the bureaucracy in advance of setting off.

Cambodia experienced in the past marketing problems, largely because of a dark past and a poor international image, but has recently rivalled Thailand in the quest to attract more Chinese. Cambodia can boast lower prices overall and massively reconstructed highways during the Covid era. In Cambodia, there is none of the adverse publicity about kidnapping or murdering Chinese citizens which has been a limiting factor in promoting Thailand. Discussions are taking place between Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos to organize tours permitting entry to all three countries without a separate visa process.