Traditional Tourism Markets Decline in Cambodia

China, Cambodia, data

Sihanoukville city centre in 2016

Is it time for Cambodia to rethink or reevaluate its tourism offer? Although first half year of 2018 saw international arrivals jumping by 12.7% to over three million visitors, the excellent result is mostly due to the jump in arrivals from a few countries- particularly China. More traditional sources markets to Cambodia are however declining…

It is no secret that Cambodia is courting increasingly China and that China is more than pleased to help financially the little kingdom. This is particularly true with total arrivals from China continue to boom due to the opening of new flights and the certitude for many Chinese holidaymakers to find a relatively cheap destination where many hotels and resorts are just China turn key projects.

While total arrivals during the first half of 2018 jumped by 12.7% to reach 3,001 million international travellers, Chinese travellers was slowly approaching the million during the first period- more exactly 0,93 million. This represents a growth of 75% over the same period of 2017.

If China stimulates the growth in tourism, it starts also to turn into a deterrent factor for other countries. Traditional markets of Cambodia – in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Pacific- show worrying trends. By continent or region, arrivals from Southeast Asia are down by 3.5%, the Americas by 5.2%, the Middle East by 11.6%, the Pacific by 7.9% and Europe by 2.9%. Some very traditional inbound markets are collapsing such as Laos (-10.7%) and Thailand (-5%), Hong Kong (-15.4%), Korea (-8.3%), Germany (-20.7%), the UK (-5%) or Australia (-7.2%).

A recent study in Sihanoukville shows that the booming resort city on the coast is now in the hands of Chinese investors which are driving prices higher in regards to hotel accommodation but also rental of spaces in town. Many domestic tourists or domestic investors feel now unwelcome in the city centre of Sihanoukville as it turns to expensive.

Talking to the Phnom Penh Post, some hoteliers indicated that non-Chinese tourists complaint about the bad behaviour and manners of some travellers from China, citing the noise as well as the degraded environment along the beaches and in town. Many Cambodians ask now the government to regulate business in Sihanoukville. But the voice of locals might not be sufficient compared to all the economic benefits that Chinese bring to the area…

Cambodia will then need to rethink seriously its marketing strategy, trying to identify new products capable to attract a more sophisticated audience. Secondary destinations, a better definition of cultural products for travellers in the Kingdom -not only based on Angkor-related activities, more original products around adventure, sport activities and community tourism could then open attractive alternatives to traditional source markets. And keep them coming back…

Cambodia tourism evolution January to June 2018

Total arrivals     3,001,660     12.7%

Asia-Pacific       2,351,044      18.2%

incl. ASEAN         948,754      -3.5%

Europe                  438,734      -2.9%

Americas               201,904     -5.2%

Oceania                    77,618      -7.9%

(Source: MOT Cambodia)