As Cambodia is reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic with plans to open the country for fully vaccinated travelers in the weeks to come, optimism is running high that the tourism sector will recover. But beyond all those hopes, challenges such as the lack of direct international flights and some stringent COVID-19 measures stand in the way.
COVID-19 has hit Cambodia’s tourism hard and, for tour guides like Chan Sytha, this has been an enduring pain. After working as a guide for four years in Siem Reap Province, Sytha said that he had to change job for a while because there is no customer for him.
After more than 20 years of the number of international arrivals constantly rising, the number of foreign arrivals dropped in 2019 due to various internal and external factors. In 2020, the province witnessed an unprecedented economic decline due to the pandemic disrupting international travel. According to data from the tourism development masterplan 2021-2035 for Siem Reap, the province received approximately 400,000 foreign visitors, which amounted to a 82 percent drop.