Cambodia’s Border Reopening: Opportunities for Tourism Sector
Cambodia’s border reopening is a boost to its tourism industry, which is an important contributor to the economy, behind the textile and garment manufacturing sector. The tourism industry will be of greater importance after the country lost its ‘Everything but Arms’ (EBA) status by the EU – an EBA status had previously enabled Cambodia to enjoy duty-free access to EU markets.
Cambodia is now fully open to foreign travelers although there are still quarantine requirements for travelers who are not fully vaccinated.
The country is among a slew of ASEAN countries that have opened their borders to international travelers. Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia have eased border restrictions to varying degrees. For instance, Vietnam and Malaysia have allowed entry of foreign travelers regardless of their vaccination status whereas Indonesia and Singapore primarily only allow fully vaccinated travelers; unvaccinated travelers can enter if they have a medical reason and will have to undergo quarantine.
The border relaxation will be a boost to Cambodia’s tourism sector, which plays a vital role in the country’s economic growth, contributing to some 12 percent of GDP annually. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic saw international traveler numbers decrease by 80 percent from 6.6 million visitors to 1.3 million in 2020.
What are the requirements to enter Cambodia?
COVID-19 testing and quarantine
Fully vaccinated travelers are not required to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test and will only need to show their proof of vaccination (a WHO-recognized vaccine regiment).
Unvaccinated travelers, however, must take a PCR test for COVID-19 at least 72 hours before arriving in Cambodia. Upon arrival, they must undergo seven days of quarantine at a government hotel. The traveler will do another COVID-19 test on the first day before entering quarantine, before doing a final test on day seven.
If the unvaccinated traveler has not pre-booked a hotel, they must demonstrate to have at least US$2,000 in cash (per traveler).
Foreign travelers will need medical insurance that covers treatment for COVID-19 at a minimum of US$50,000. The insurance must cover a range of treatments, such as quarantine if found positive and hospitalization.
Cambodia has reopened its visa on arrival service, which cost US$35 for a maximum stay of 30 days. Some nationalities will need to make advance arrangements and apply online.
Reviving Cambodia’s tourism industry
Cambodia has adopted multiple strategies to revive its tourism industry. The government issued some 10 rounds of stimulus packages to support the country’s two main industries: i) textiles, footwear, and garment manufacturing, and ii) tourism.
Under the stimulus packages, hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, and travel agencies were exempt from paying monthly taxes. The businesses had to be located in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Preah Sihanouk, Kep, Kampot, Bavet, or Poi Pet and had to be registered with the General Department of Taxation of Cambodia.
In addition, Cambodia ratified a free trade agreement with China in September 2021, and the country is banking on an influx of Chinese tourists to help with business recovery. In 2015, the government launched the ‘China Ready for Cambodia Tourism’ policy, which aimed to attract more Chinese visitors. By 2019, the policy saw two million Chinese travelers visit the country, although this dropped drastically due to the pandemic.
The tourism industry is even more important after the partial loss of EBA status
The tourism industry will be even more important to Cambodia’s economy after the country was partially withdrawn from the ‘Everything but Arm’ (EBA) scheme by the EU in 2020.
An EBA status gives a country duty-free access to the EU market, and Cambodia was provided tax breaks and holidays for its manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, and property industries. The EU cited human rights abuses in Cambodia as the main reason for withdrawing the EBA status.
The suspension impacted some one-fifth of Cambodia’s exports to the EU, totaling around US$1.1 billion.
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