The decision by Vietnam to exempt from visa travellers from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK from July 1st, is awakening fears in Cambodia that some of those travellers would not come anymore to the country. The Phnom Penh Post reported last week that Cambodia tourism sector would like to see a similar measure of a free visa scheme adopted for European markets.
Talking to the Phnom Penh Post, Ho Vandy, co-chair of the private sector-government working group on tourism, said the visa exemptions will have an impact the Kingdom’s tourism industry. He called on the government to provide a similar scheme. European tourism stays in Cambodia are generally link with a Mekong tour including generally Vietnam. “This is the right time for our government to be flexible, as the private sector has raised the issue of discounts on visa fees or exemptions [in the past],” he said to the newspaper.
However, no one could affirm that Cambodia would also move that direction. Visas are seen in Cambodia as a large source of revenues for the government. Only ASEAN nationals as well as China travellers are for now exempted of visa fees when entering the Kingdom.
Another Khmer tour operator estimates that ending visas to European travellers would also limit potential money extortion at land borders. The five European countries generated 419,000 arrivals in 2014 to Cambodia with France being the largest European source with 141,000 arrivals, followed by the UK with 133,000 arrivals and Germany with 84,000 arrivals.
Laos could also be affected by Vietnam decision, probably to a lesser extend as movements between Vietnam and Laos from European travellers are more limited. France, Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain represented in 2013 (Laos latest available data) over 135,000 arrivals to Lao PDR including 52,146 arrivals from France, 39,061 from the UK and 29,800 from Germany. However, free visa provided to all European countries going to Thailand did not so far deter European travellers to visit Laos…