Potential Cambodia Tourism Trends In 2024

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Recent festivities, including the Water Festival and New Year’s Eve celebrations, attracted both domestic and international travellers to various parts of Cambodia. However, tourism still remains lower than pre-COVID-19 levels with estimates that those levels won’t be reached until 2025.

Potential Cambodia Tourism Trends In 2024
Potential Cambodia Tourism Trends In 2024./ Source image: Tiago Cardoso via Pexels.

We explore some of the major global travel trends identified in a recent report by travel technology company, Amadeus, assessing how they might compare to the Cambodian context, while also examining the potential impact of these trends on the local tourism industry and the country’s economic growth.

Throughout 2023, it was evident that Cambodia’s tourism industry was still slowly recovering. However, at the onset of 2024, Cambodia implemented an E-visa application process for all countries, aiming to better facilitate the entry of international travellers. 

Additionally, the operations of the larger international-class airport in Siem Reap commenced in Q4 2023, and the first stage of the new airport in Phnom Penh is expected to be operational by 2025.

These newer, larger and more modern airports with their longer runways and expanded capabilities need to attract new airlines and new routes to justify their investments and fulfil the potential of Cambodia as a tourism destination.

What Are The Expected Global Tourism Trends Of 2024? 

According to the Amadeus Global Tourism Trend 2024 report, the main forecasted factors to influence global tourism in 2024 will be artificial intelligence (AI) tools, music tourism, social media influencers, electric skyways, and changing airline offerings.

Impacts Of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI) On Tourism In Cambodia

Amadeus highlights that there is now an increasing use of AI in travel planning to produce highly personalised and intuitive search and advice results. The ChatGPT plug-in for Expedia, for example, acts as a virtual travel assistant, listening to customers’ requirements and promptly delivering relevant hotel and itinerary information, along with convenient booking links.

According to a Longwoods International tracking study, one-third of U.S. travellers are likely to use ChatGPT to plan their trips.

Cambodia has also seen an increase in ChatGPT users, particularly among the younger generation who are proficient in English. The Cambodian Ministry of Education announced on November 10, 2023 that ChatGPT was available in Cambodia, however, there are currently no specific reports available on the number of people using ChatGPT in Cambodia or its impact on travel behaviour among Cambodians.

It can still be assumed that most travellers rely on information that’s available online and better integrated online tools and platforms using digital payments and AI chatbots might help ease travel selections. 

With Angkor Wat repeatedly appearing on the “must-visit” destinations lists, as well as Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh being listed as a Top Ten ‘Trending Destinations’ of 2024 by Tripadvisor, organised co-ordinated online marketing and tools will help ensure there is a steady flow of visitors to the Kingdom.

Music Tourism Has A Long Way To Go In Cambodia 

The global music tourism industry experienced significant post-pandemic growth, driven by the desire for social interaction after a long period of social isolation.

Concert announcements in 2024 have been found to have a profound impact on travel patterns. For instance, Taylor Swift’s scheduled performances in Australia, Singapore, and Japan resulted in a substantial increase in flight searches and bookings to these destinations.

In Cambodia, the music scene has primarily revolved around a small group of local artists, recently driven by the popularity of Cambodian rapper VannDa, who has in recent years, performed overseas in Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore. His most recent appearance was at Wonderfruit in Thailand in December 2023.

By the close of 2023, a new Cambodian rap-based competition reality show, ‘The Rapper Cambodia’, attracted a number of international artists to the country, including Awich and Suboi from Japan and Vietnam, who both performed live. 

Travellers touring Angkor Wat. Source image: Khmer Times.
The Rapper Cambodia TV Show 2023./ Source image: The Rapper Cambodia Facebook.

Young Cambodians who are music enthusiasts will travel to hubs such as Thailand or Singapore for international performances – with 2024 already having Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, Bruno Mars and others already confirmed for the region. 

There have been local music festivals in the Kingdom, but not since telco Smart used to run their popular ‘free’ shows on Koh Pich and attracted international stars such as Charlie Puth, K-Pop star Rain, and even Demi Lovato – all pre-pandemic – has there been a buzz around local music concerts. It’s a sector that has a long way to go.

Agents Of Influence Driving Travel Trends In Cambodia

Social media travel influencers have increasingly played a crucial role in facilitating direct bookings through online platforms. Platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok have empowered influencers to share booking links and even process payments, effectively transforming them into travel facilitators.

Young Cambodian influencers have similarly made an impact on domestic tourism by showcasing the country’s popular tourism sites, including beaches, temples, nature reserves, and camping locations, through vlogs, photos and other blogging content.

Travel influencers provide guidance to their followers on which places to visit and what to do, sometimes also helping to spotlight some of the country’s lesser-known destinations.

Using online and digital platforms to foster community engagement and showcase unique elements of a country, such as its culinary artistry, was also highlighted as an influential approach at the Destination Mekong Summit 2023

Tourism experts at the summit also discussed the need to go all out in marketing the Mekong region, including Cambodia, as a prime sustainable tourism destination, as travel trends in recent years have shown a growing interest in sustainable travel options. 

Achieving this goal, the experts said, will require innovation and creativity, but with an emphasis on building ‘authentic experiences’ – something travellers are increasingly seeking out.

Emerging Sustainable Travel Options

To address congestion and reduce air pollution, the Amadeus report identifies electric skyways as an emerging potential solution in certain countries. These skyways would enable flying taxis, electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, and other electric aircraft to provide low-emission air travel options, both within cities and for longer distances.

In the Cambodian context, electric vehicle travel is much simpler and has not yet reached these high-tech developments (well to be honest it hasn’t reached those levels anywhere as proposed by Amadeus)

However, the Cambodian government has taken up the initiative to promote electric vehicles (EVs) in the country. This includes expanding the availability of EV charging stations – there are at the start of 2024 only 13 EV stations in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, Sihanoukville, and Mondulkiri. 

  • There are also more public transport tuk tuks which are electric, while the Ministry of Public Works and Transport has supported a pre-feasibility study on the use of electric buses in Siem Reap.
  • More electric vehicle and scooter brands have been introduced to Cambodia such as Letin Mengo, Yadea and Sunra, while Tesla also opened its first flagship dealership store in Phnom Penh in 2021.  

There have been talks of developing plans for a potential sky train and light rail system around the capital to the new airport but also to serve the urban sprawl, but these plans have yet to be realised. 

More likely would be the introduction of other mobility options such as cable cars which would also help establish new areas of Cambodia, or support existing tourist destinations – and these are being looked into.

Cambodia’s 2024 Tourism Outlook 

The SEA Games 2023 was the biggest sporting event Cambodia has organised and hosted – and it attracted international travellers from other ASEAN countries. Sports continue to be crucial for the country, with Kun Khmer events for example, gaining popularity, while new international golf courses also offer the potential to attract high-end visitors.

Potential Cambodia Tourism Trends In 2024
Cambodia’s Kun Khmer Boxing. / Source image: Wurkz Energy Drink.

In the longer run – Cambodia could be a potential future Summer Youth Olympics host, and it is hosting the 6th Asian Youth Para Games in 2029 – now that it has the facilities built for the 2023 SEA Games.

During the Government-Private Sector Forum (G-PSF) in November 2023, the Cambodian government announced the Visit Siem Reap Campaign. This campaign aims to address challenges across the tourism value chain in Siem Reap, including promotion, connecting flights between major tourist destinations, and creating an attractive and stimulating tourism environment in 2024.

2024 will also be the Cambodia-China People-to-People Exchange Year which is hoped will boost tourism from Chinese visitors.

In early 2024, Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh was listed by Tripadvisor among the top 10 trending destinations in the world for 2024, and Angkor Wat was listed as one of the best places to see the sunrise in the world based on a study by Mornings.co.uk.

Ongoing developments in the country’s tourism infrastructure, promoting distinctive local heritage attractions, as well as more sustainable, diverse, and well-marketed destination-tourism attractions will help Cambodia attract more tourists and grow the popularity of existing attractions.

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