Cambodia‚Äôs tourism players are celebrating after a snap decision on Sunday (November 14) saw the nation become the first in South-east Asia to fully open to vaccinated travellers with no restrictions.
‚ÄúChristmas has come early for the tourism and hospitality industry in Cambodia,‚ÄĚ said Nick Ray, consultant for CamDMC, on the news that the country has fully opened to fully inoculated tourists.
Prime minister Hun Sen made the surprise announcement on Sunday that from the following day (November 15), fully vaccinated travellers from any destination are welcome without quarantine.
Inbound travellers must present a negative PCR test result taken 72 hours before departure and undergo a free rapid test on arrival. Once given the all-clear ‚Äď an estimated 10- to 15-minute wait ‚Äď arrivals are free to enter the country with no quarantine or restrictions on movement.
The requirement for health insurance has also been scrapped. While the visa-on-arrival service remains suspended, tourist e-visas can be applied online in advance of travel.
Virginie Kury, general manager at Asian Trails Cambodia, said: ‚ÄúThis means we‚Äôre back to business and the economy will slowly be able to restart. Guides, hoteliers, restaurateurs and all staff in tourism businesses will be able to breathe again by earning a decent salary.‚ÄĚ
The move also means Cambodia is the only South-east Asian country to fully reopen with very few restrictions, presenting an opportunity the industry is hoping to seize.
Jacques Guichandut, managing director of All Dreams Cambodia, said: ‚ÄúThis means we are the sandbox for South-east Asia and can really be seen as one destination. It will encourage the tourism sector to reconsider Cambodia and change the image we had.‚ÄĚ
The announcement supersedes previous plans to stagger Cambodia‚Äôs reopening. This was slated to start on November 30, with vaccinated arrivals spending five days at the coastal resort of Sihanoukville, Koh Rong island or the Dara Sakor area of Koh Kong.
The Cambodian premier said the full opening was due to Cambodia having vaccinated more than 88 per cent of the population. Third booster jabs are being rolled out countrywide.
In spite of the full opening, Guichandut predicts initial recovery will be slow, and will only start to pick up in 1Q2022. With Cambodia‚Äôs inbound international arrivals pre-Covid predominantly from Asia, he added predicting a full recovery is tough as quarantines continue to be widespread across the region.
Along with the reopening of its borders, Cambodia has also reiterated its readiness in hosting the upcoming ASEAN Tourism Forum in Preah Sihanoukville, slated to be held from January 16-22, 2022, with the theme ASEAN ‚Äď A Community of Peace and Shared Future.
The forum will be a platform to encourage collaboration between ASEAN member states and to promote the region as one destination with diverse culture, cuisine and communities. Some 200 sellers and buyers, and 50 international media, are expected to attend.