As the nationwide vaccination campaign continues, efforts were ramped up in Siem Reap in early July raising hopes for a domestic tourism bloom. Those hopes were dashed again at the end of July when fears over the coronavirus Delta variant led the Prime Minister to announce a fresh two-week lockdown for Siem Reap and seven other western provinces. It is not clear at the time of writing whether that lockdown will be lifted or extended on the projected expiry date of August 12.
However, with the number of vaccinated Cambodians and foreign nationals rising every single day, those fragile hopes that Siem Reap’s hotels and restaurants will once more welcome new guests through their doors should remain alive.
Speaking to Cambodge Mag in June, Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA), said that vaccines will contribute to revitalising the faltering tourism sector, adding that the government had worked with partners in order to accelerate the vaccination campaign, which is a good sign for tourism in country. And it is not just for the benefit of domestic tourism of course.
“European countries are starting to check which countries and destinations are safe for their citizens”, said Ms Slivin.
Cambodia had set a target of vaccinating 10 million adults by the end of the year and had already achieved 71% of that target by the end of July. The drive to vaccinate 12-to-17 year olds kicked off on August 1.
While acknowledging that the reopening of the country to foreign tourists must be done gradually, Ms Sivlin suggests that, as a first step, the government promote air links with neighbouring countries and also focus on tourists from countries with large numbers of vaccinated people.
"We need to attract tourists from countries where the COVID-19 situation has improved," says Ms Sivlin.
In fact, restoring tourism to Siem Reap province has been one of the government's top priorities so far.
At the end of March 2021, Prime Minister Hun Sen approved a "roadmap" for restoring tourism during and after the COVID-19 period, which includes the master plan for tourism development in Siem Reap Province 2021-2035.
Seven strategies are defined in the master plan, including the development of new tourism products, quality and sustainability of tourism development, environmental protection and infrastructure.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, if all goes according to plan, Siem Reap province will be able to attract 10.9 million Cambodian-based tourists by 2023 and 9.5 million foreign tourists by 2025. The revitalisation of the tourism sector is expected to bring six billion dollars in revenue into the Cambodian economy and make the province a quality tourist destination.