Despite calls from the tourism industry in Cambodia, the Cambodian Prime Minister has ruled out dropping tourist visas for international visitors coming to the Kingdom.
Even though the suggestions for the tourist visa to be halted may be a short term solution, no actual tourist visas have been issued for nearly a year in the Kingdom due to COVID-19. The tourism sector has been one of the hardest hit in Cambodia due to global flight restrictions, the arrival quarantine process and the fact tourist visas have been unobtainable.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin has asked the government to look at easing travel restrictions especially relating to document requirements, quarantine procedures and deposits for COVID-19 service charges. In addition, there are still requests to set up travel bubbles.
Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association (KATGA) president Khieu Thy suggested initiating a waiver scheme for countries that have a high number of visitors to Cambodia, such as China, India, the US, Canada and some EU nationalities.
Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on February 1, 2021, that growth of revenue from visa fees is usually conducive to national development and that scrapping them without a viable alternative would be ill-advised according to the Phnom Penh Post.
He added, “That’s why I don’t agree with any of the requests for Cambodia to stop charging visa fees as a gesture to entice tourists. I don’t agree, Cambodia still has no alternative”.
Pre COVID-19, Cambodia could generate as much as $180 million in income from visa fees based on figures from 2019. Cambodia received 6.6 million international visitors that year, but only 1.31 million international visitors in 2020. Most of those would presumably be in Q1 2020 before the tourist visas stopped being issued by the government.
In December 2020, the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism drafted a recovery roadmap 2020-2025 with a strategy to deal with the massive impact of COVID-19.