Tourism stakeholders are abuzz with excitement over potential tailwinds for the struggling local industry, spurred by the reinstatement and expansion of visa waiver programs around the world and the return to full strength of the global travel market .
A major example is Vietnam, where the Ministry of Tourism recently asked the government to reinstate visa waivers for citizens of Cambodia and 23 other countries who had benefited from the program before the Covid-19 crisis, according to state media. .
Before Covid, tourists from Cambodia and most ASEAN countries could visit Vietnam without a visa for up to 30 days – 21 days for the Philippines and 14 days for Brunei and Myanmar – while Kyrgyz nationals could not. were not allowed to stay longer than 30 days and 90 days for those from Chile, Viet Nam News reported.
Likewise, visitors from Belarus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom can stay without a visa for up to 15 days.
Additionally, Vietnam was due to lift Covid-related restrictions on all international passenger flights on February 15. The ministry has also proposed the full resumption of tourism activities on March 15, which includes the conditional reopening of borders to foreign visitors who are fully vaccinated or previously positive for the coronavirus, according to the government’s VGP information portal.
Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA) President Chhay Sivlin believes Vietnam’s measures would be a boon for Cambodia’s tourism sector, now that the Kingdom’s Covid rules for international arrivals have been fully stung. been considerably relaxed.
She said the revival of the neighboring country’s tourism industry would encourage Vietnam Airlines – the national airline that operates long-haul flights to Europe and the United States – to open more routes and thus motivate more passengers. to add Cambodia and other Indochinese destinations to their itineraries.
“Needless to say, Cambodia has no direct long-haul flights to European countries or the United States. On the other hand, if Vietnam launched another, it would have plenty of planes in reserve – a diverse fleet of planes operated by the national carrier that could fly passengers virtually anywhere.
“Let them [travellers] go to Vietnam – they are forced to come to Cambodia, which is easily accessible by multiple modes of transportation, including waterways, land and air,” Sivlin said.
The president of the Cambodia chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), Thourn Sinan, noted that tourists visiting neighboring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam quite often add Cambodia further on their itineraries.
He suggested, however, that more flights connecting Cambodia with the world could prompt a considerable proportion of travelers to the region to place the Kingdom higher on their list of priority destinations.
He argued that the number of natural and historical tourist sites in Vietnam is lower than Cambodia, which he said positions the Kingdom well to benefit from a relaxation of its neighbor’s travel rules for international visitors.
Sinan added that Vietnam sells more travel packages to Cambodia than Thailand, saying the communist-ruled country offers fewer tourism products than mainland ASEAN’s biggest economy.
Even after Cambodia recalled restrictions on fully vaccinated international arrivals, private sector expectations for the tourism industry are mixed, amid concerns over the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant.