Holidaymakers made 51,042 domestic trips across the Kingdom on September 4-5, the first weekend of the month, with coastal areas ranking as top destinations, according to Minister of Tourism Thong Khon.
Khon noted that 50,134 Cambodians and 908 foreign residents visited Kampot (23,787) Kep (4,955), Phnom Penh (4,190), Siem Reap (4,043), Takeo (3,702) and the other 20 provinces (10,365) over the two days.
For reference, 8,960 domestic trips were made across the Kingdom from April 26 to May 2, with Cambodians accounting for 8,754 and foreigners 206, as previously reported by the minister. This was the first week after the government lifted an inter-provincial travel ban and reopened tourist resorts, reversing restrictions imposed on April 6 and 17 respectively.
Khon said domestic tourism has gradually picked up since August 20, a day after a nighttime curfew in the capital and other Covid-19 restrictions on Siem Reap and the seven provinces bordering Thailand were lifted, but conceded that the number of day trippers remains low.
“Most provincial administrations have allowed the resumption of tourism activities at resorts and destinations, though under strict and careful management, especially the heightened observance of the ‘three do’s and three don’ts” guidelines,” he said.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin insists that it is high time for the Kingdom to reopen to international tourists fully-inoculated against the novel coronavirus, given the speed of the government’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
She told The Post that it is entirely feasible to reopen tourism before the Kingdom hosts the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) on January 16-22, or possibly even as early as October-November.
On September 1, the Ministry of Tourism introduced a set of minimum standard operating procedures (SOP) for four major classes of tourism businesses, which is geared towards the “new normal” of the industry.
These SOPs are tailored to support businesses in their daily activities and enable them to adapt to the post-Covid-19 world, as the Kingdom emerges from the pandemic and pushes ahead with tentative plans to reopen tourism towards the end of this year.
The four classes of businesses covered by the SOPs are tourism accommodation service providers; tourist eateries; tourist resorts; and eco- and community-based tourism operators.
The minister stressed that the SOPs and associated updates to tourism safety rules were in line with “necessary measures” adopted by the government and Ministry of Health to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The ministry said it will hold further discussions with provincial administrations on adopting flexible, practical and proactive approaches to promoting and managing tourism in each locality, with special attention on the upcoming Pchum Ben festival season and the sector’s reopening.
Cambodian Buddhists will celebrate Pchum Ben for 15 days from September 22 to October 6. The holiday is dedicated to their ancestors and it is generally an occasion for families to get together.
Tourism ministry figures show that, in the first half of this year, 102,560 foreigners visited Cambodia, marking a steep decline of 91.3 per cent compared to the same period in 2020.