Cambodia reaps fallout from revenge tourism boom in Thailand

Governments across Southeast Asia are pleased with the increase in foreign arrivals now that the pandemic is decidedly on the wane. The trend among travelers is called “revenge tourism,” characterized by people craving more extravagant and longer vacations after being locked in their homes during the height of the health crisis.

“Because people have been stuck at home for almost two years, they just want to go splurge,” according to Mary Ann Ong representing the regional tour operators association.

Cambodia’s famous Angkor Archaeological Park attracted 134,152 foreign tourists in the first nine months of 2022, an increase of 2,075 percent over the same period last year.

The tourism sector in Cambodia is expected to reach its pre-Covid-19 level in 2026 or 2027, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

The Thai authorities have made every effort to increase the numbers. The intention is for 10 million foreigners to set foot before the end of the year, although eight million seems more achievable.

Visa waivers and visas on arrival have been extended, while one-day visas at the Cambodian border are again possible for many. Health checks at airports and border crossings are a thing of the past, while the wave of decriminalization of marijuana has been greeted with joy by Western travelers in particular.

Zero-sum Chinese tourists, still crippled by Beijing’s Covid restrictions, may be missing but have been compensated by growing numbers from India. Over 60 Indian restaurants are currently operating in Pattaya alone.

Meanwhile, Cambodian officials share similar optimism. Mam Bun Heng, the Minister of Health, announced that arrivals by land, sea and air no longer need to produce health certificates or present proof of vaccination upon arrival.

Tourism authorities in Phnom Penh, Cambodia have already welcomed more than one million visitors in 2022, up 720% year-on-year, with a real possibility of two million before January 2023. The Premier Minister Hun Sen said 140,000 people have visited the temple so far this year. resort at Angkor Wat, near Siem Reap, although this figure includes domestic and local expat markets.

The Philippines is reporting around two million foreign arrivals since the country opened last February, although pre-registration with the quarantine office and proof of full vaccination status (plus booster) on arrival are still a requirement for a lot.

Thailand and the Philippines are traditionally dependent on the Chinese market, but have not found an alternative source of mass tourism. Vietnam no longer requires test results, but public health measures such as mask-wearing are still enforced in some provinces. Laos is in a similar position but recently renewed its air links with Thailand and Cambodia to facilitate the entry of tourists into Vientiane.

What could jeopardize “revenge tourism” are rising airfares created by fuel costs, staff shortages and tight supply of planes. Some observers fear that any expansion of the war in Ukraine will lead to a reluctance to travel abroad. But economist Haley Berg, from Travel and Leisure, said: ‘If you really want to travel in high season, try to be flexible with your dates. Airfares have increased globally by 33% over the past year, but there are huge variations by route and date. By being flexible, you can sometimes save hundreds of dollars. Pattaya Courier/Khmer Times