The Cambodian government has set the fourth quarter of 2021 as the deadline to fully reopen the country. Under pressure from the tourism industry, the government is considering allowing fully vaccinated tourists with visas into the country even earlier.
Vaccinations well under way in Cambodia
Cambodia is well on its way to containing the coronavirus. The countryʼs vaccination programme is up and running. Although the number of new infections is still alarmingly high by Cambodian standards, the government is confident that the numbers will drop as more people are vaccinated. Cambodia has already administered more than 10 million doses of coronavirus vaccine, and more than 25% of the total population has been fully vaccinated. This puts Cambodia far ahead of its neighbours. Thailand, for example, has only had 5% of its population fully vaccinated and Vietnam only 2%.
It is therefore no wonder that the government is making concrete plans to fully reopen the country. This particularly concerns the tourism sector, one of the most important sources of income for the country. In 2020, Cambodia received 1.3 million foreign tourists, an 80 per cent decrease compared to 2019. Tourism accounts for about 32% of Cambodiaʼs GDP.
Cambodia to fully open in fourth quarter
In talks with the tourism industry, the Cambodian government has set the fourth quarter of 2021 as the deadline for Cambodia to fully reopen. The initial focus will be on traditional regional tourism markets such as Japan, China and neighbouring Thailand. This will be done through "travel bubbles" and agreements with countries that also have the coronavirus under control. The hope is that as tourism recovers in this way, other countries will see that Cambodia is safe enough to travel to.
The government hopes that Siem Raep, Cambodiaʼs second-largest city, will be the main attraction. Recently, the city was awarded TripAdvisorʼs "Worldʼs Top Luxury Tour Award". The award was given to the 3-day tour of Siem Raep province, which includes the temples of Angkor Wat and the floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake.
Tourism sector wants to open faster
For the tourism sector in Cambodia, the fourth quarter of 2021 is too late. The argument is that the country would lose out on unnecessary income, such as visa costs. The president of the Pacific Travel Agent Association (PATA), Thourn Sinan, urges the government to at least allow domestic tourism again for fully vaccinated persons, and also to consider opening the borders for vaccinated foreign tourists.
The government does not seem to be giving in to the pressure for the time being. The Ministry of Tourism says it is investigating all possibilities, but that the health of the population comes first.
Visa remains mandatory, costs not reduced
Although the Cambodian government is investigating all options to reopen the country as soon as possible, there is one area where it refuses to make changes: the mandatory Cambodia visa. Earlier this year, the tourism industry called for the visa fees to be reduced or even abolished altogether.
This means that applying for a Cambodia visa remains mandatory for a trip to the country. Cambodia has a modern digital visa system, which means that the visa can be applied for completely online. The Cambodia visa is valid for 90 days, with a maximum stay of 30 days. The passport used to apply for the visa must be valid for at least 6 months after arrival in Cambodia. The visa must be printed twice so that one copy can be presented on arrival and one on departure.