January 8, 2024
PHNOM PENH – The Visit Siem Reap 2024 campaign is set to inject new momentum into Cambodia’s efforts to attract foreign tourists globally, following significant setbacks suffered by the sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing geopolitical competition among superpowers.
Prime Minister Hun Manet unveiled the campaign during the 19th Government-Private Sector Forum held at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh in November.
He acknowledged the severe impact of the pandemic on the industry, noting the increasing number of foreign visitors, yet recognising that the figures have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, especially in major destinations like Siem Reap.
“We all acknowledge that [the province] has been the hardest hit among Cambodian destinations. The government’s introduction of special measures to promote tourism in Siem Reap is necessary,” he said.
The prime minister added that improvements in the province would positively affect other regions as well.
He emphasised that while the focus is on Siem Reap, it does not mean neglecting other areas; instead, the current priority is to first implement various measures in the province to attract more visitors to the country in general.
Manet detailed the programme, including initiatives to enhance border hospitality, streamline online procedures, bolster security, integrate security cameras, broaden the range of border passes and assess the potential for providing financial support to tourism ventures in the province.
Sar Sarin, vice-president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), told The Post on December 4 that the influx of international tourists has steadily increased, albeit at a slower pace than before the Covid-19 crisis.
He observed that more Cambodian tourists are travelling in and out of the country than foreign visitors.
He noted that while the government’s announcement of the campaign is not limited to Siem Reap, the focus is largely due to the international recognition and significance of Angkor Wat, a Cambodian landmark and UNESCO World Heritage site.
“Overall, with the government’s launch of Visit Siem Reap 2024, the budget allocation and the establishment of the Tourism Board, I firmly believe that our tourism sector will grow rapidly in 2024 with the return of international tourists from around the world,” said Sarin, also the founder and CEO of Tovtrip, a Phnom Penh-based excursion planning app and website.
Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia Chapter, outlined several strategies to attract more tourists to the province this year.
These include branding and a global marketing campaign, developing an evocative brand identity that highlights Siem Reap’s unique cultural experiences and natural beauty, launching a multilingual website and social media channels, partnering with influencers in key markets, launching public relations outreach to international media and distributing promotional materials globally through airline partnerships and travel agencies.
He added that the country is also enhancing visitor experiences and expanding flight routes, developing high-quality accommodation options suited to various budgets and group sizes, training local tour guides on Cambodian culture, history and sustainable practices and offering immersive cultural experiences as well as promoting sustainable tourism practices.
“By comprehensively implementing these strategies across marketing, experiences and sustainability, Siem Reap aims to become Southeast Asia’s most vibrant cultural destination, protecting heritage and inspiring visitors through authentic encounters with Khmer civilisation,” he said.
“Careful planning, community partnerships and responsible tourism will unlock new opportunities to share Cambodia’s treasures with the world in 2024 and beyond,” he added.
The prime minister announced in November 2023 an initial budget of $50 million to be disbursed via the state-owned Small and Medium Enterprise Bank of Cambodia (SME Bank) to assist tour operators in the province.
Siem Reap generated over $32 million from ticket sales to foreign guests at Angkor Archaeological Park in the first 11 months of 2023, an increase of more than 260% compared to the same period in 2022, as reported by the state-run Angkor Enterprise (AE).
According to the Ministry of Tourism, between January and November 2023, the Kingdom received nearly 4.92 million foreign visitors, reflecting a 156.9% increase compared to the same period in 2022, which saw 1.91 million visitors.