Over A Million Tourists from China to Cambodia in 2017

(Photo by Khmer Times/Chor Sokunthea)

 

With growth in tourist arrivals from China jumping by 42% in the first seven months of 2017, Cambodia is becoming increasingly dependent of its giant neighbour. For the best and the worst…

They were 840,000 in 2016. They would be close to 1.2 million in 2017 if the number of Chinese tourists to Cambodia continues to follow the current trend. According to official data, some 635,000 Chinese tourists had visited Cambodia in the first seven months of 2017, up 42.7% compared with the same period last year. Chinese tourists account now for over 20% of all arrivals to the country. The expected number of international arrivals to the country should top approximately 5.6 to 5.7 million for the year. Over 3.1 million tourists have been recorded from January to July this year.

China tops now the chart among the top 10 arrivals to the Kingdom, ahead of  Vietnam, Laos, South Korea and Thailand. The jump in numbers come from the multiplication of flights between Cambodia and China but also from the excellent political relations between Cambodia and its big northern neighbour. Within ASEAN, Cambodia is perceived as China’s staunchest ally, taking even position for China against other ASEAN members…

It obviously pays off. Investments from China into Cambodia are pouring in tourism with many resorts along the coast being built with Chinese money -such as the Dara Sakor Seashore Resort and Koh Kong new airport built by Tianjin Union Development Group on 45,000 hectares of concessions. China just secured the construction of a brand new airport in Siem Reap and probably of another new airport for Phnom Penh.

Natural attractions, cultural icons such as Angkor Wat and of course, gambling in casinos are turning Cambodia into an attractive and cheap destination for more and more Chinese tourists.

Last year, Cambodia launched a “China Ready” strategy with the aim of attracting 2 million Chinese tourists annually to Cambodia by 2020. In the strategy, tourism authorities encourage the setting of signage in Mandarin, the acceptance of the Chinese Yuan while encouraging local students to learn to speak Chinese.

There is however also negative impact. Crowded destinations with Chinese travellers tend to deter other nationalities to come. Cambodia should think to offer a proper balance and target high-spending individual Chinese holidaymakers rather than mass tourism. Especially as large groups of Chinese travellers generally do not use locals (from transportation to shopping) visiting only places owned by Chinese or with a Chinese financial interest…