Ep 22: Can Cambodia Entice More Visitors From China & South East Asia?

About This Episode

10 Jun 2020 • 33m52s

Cambodia counts the second-lowest total of COVID-19 cases in South East Asia. This week, Gary and Hannah discuss whether this rising tourism star can leverage its COVID-safe status once it fully reopens.

In 2019, China was its largest inbound market, followed by Vietnam. Three other South East Asian countries ranked in the Top 10.

The show discusses key factors that will influence future travel to Cambodia from China and South East Asian markets, suggests creative sales & marketing tactics for travel companies and tour operators, and analyses consumer sentiment and booking trends in the region.

Show notes

00:45 Cambodia enjoyed a six-week COVID-free streak!

“Cambodia is emerging from the pandemic crisis with life now getting back to normal, and domestic tourism re-starting.” (Hannah)

“Only Lao PDR has less cases in South East Asia, and Cambodia has about one-third of the cases in Vietnam.” (Gary)

Given this positive landscape, when will Cambodia open up to international tourism?

01:45 This show follows a webinar we co-hosted; ‘Attracting Short-Haul Asian Markets to Cambodia’

“We covered key travel factors, booking trends and consumer sentiment in South East Asian markets and China for travel industry professionals from across Cambodia, as well as Thailand, Myanmar and Lao PDR.” (Gary)

02:30 A rewind of inbound trends to Cambodia in 2019

“Cambodia received 6.7 million arrivals in 2019, and was looking for 7 million visitors this year – but that is now unlikely.” (Gary)

Discussion of key tourism source markets for Cambodia in 2019.

03:40 Air connectivity to Cambodia has improved in recent years

“South East Asian nations have pretty good air connections to the three main airports in Cambodia. It’s surprising, though, that Singapore is only the 14th largest source market.” (Hannah)

05:00 Analysis of intra-ASEAN travel flows in Cambodia and other SEA countries

“There were 133 million arrivals into South East Asia in 2019, and 36.7% were people travelling between ASEAN countries. 33.7% of visitors to Cambodia were from ASEAN, which compares well to other countries in the region.” (Gary)

06:15 Breakdown of visitor arrivals in 2019 from China to mainland SEA nations

“Thailand tops the list with 10.99 million Chinese visitors in 2019, while Cambodia welcomed 2.36 million arrivals. Myanmar recorded 152% annual growth. Still room for Chinese visitor growth in most SEA markets, including Cambodia.” (Gary)

“Cambodia was becoming a popular destination for Chinese visitors with strong air connections. Once the pandemic is over, you would expect air links will start to ramp up again in volume.” (Hannah)

08:45 What will travellers from South East Asia and China want from their holidays post-pandemic?

“COVID-safe will be the big driver, but we are also expecting shorter booking windows, high cancellation rates and shorter trips. Fewer group packages, more couples and families.” (Hannah)

“Cambodia shares a lot of borders, making overland trip possible. Flights from SEA countries and China are also quite short, which enables weekend getaways and might attract people looking to make a first post-pandemic overseas trip.” (Hannah)

11:40 Affordability will be another key driver: most regional economies are being hard hit economically, and people may have less disposable income

“Cambodia has an advantage here as it is a competitively priced destination, and booking private experiences without mingling with other people is not prohibitively expensive.” (Hannah)

“I notice a sense of financial insecurity from everyone I speak to here in KL. People are concerned about their jobs, their futures and for their families. We can travel only within Malaysia for a month or two at least, so we’ll have to see whether travel sentiment recovers.” (Gary)

13.44 Discussion of a Google consumer sentiment survey

“Travellers from Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines favour price discounts as a motivation for booking flights, rather than flexible cancellation policies.” (Hannah)

14:50 Less-crowded destinations will prove popular: the appeal of nature, getting off the beaten track, coastal breezes and mountain fresh air

UNESCO sites attract huge crowds, so how will Cambodia manage visitor numbers at Angkor Wat – which is a ‘must see’? Are there any lessons to learn from China?

“China is currently only open for domestic travel, and marquee sites like the Great Wall and Forbidden City must be pre-booked online. But we still saw huge crowds during the May holiday.” (Gary)

16:30 How do COVID-safe destinations like China, Cambodia and New Zealand transition from domestic tourism and reintroduce inbound and outbound travel?

“Domestic travel is, for the foreseeable future, going to be how people reintroduce themselves to the rhythms of travelling, and learn how to feel safe away from the home.” (Gary)

19:00 The “No touch, low touch, high touch” concept can be used to grade facilities and amenities and give travellers more confidence: discussion of healthcare apps in different countries, frictionless points during a journey, laundry/dry cleaning, medical kits and PPE for hotel and tour staff.

20:30 What are some of the emerging themes for travellers seeking a vacation?

Discussion about homestays away from home/staycations beyond borders, a desire to escape reality, time to revisit missed celebrations, and a retreat to romance for couples. Will COVID-safe weddings and honeymoons become a thing?

21.30 Q&A “Vietnam gets a lot of media coverage its handling of the pandemic, but Cambodia has also done well - so how can tour operators and travel businesses promote travel more effectively?”

“Vietnam has got its PR wheels in motion to push a range of positive tourism angles, and Cambodia hasn’t done this quite as much. Are people still a bit suspicious about Cambodia’s very low numbers?” (Hannah)

“Vietnam’s tourism board website is also excellent, it’s often updated with dynamic content – and these story angles get picked up by the international media.” (Gary)

“Another angle is now that domestic travel is open in Cambodia, travellers may visit, photograph and share locations that aren’t familiar to foreign visitors. The tourism board could build on these new marketing opportunities.” (Hannah)

25:10 Q&A “What recommendations do you have for tour operators to set up B2B relationships in South East Asian and Chinese markets?”

“It’s tough without travel marts and face-to-face contact. At the moment, its about tracking down the travel agency associations, researching the members and making a list of key targets to reaching out to.” (Hannah)

“For China the entire travel chain tends to be controlled by Chinese companies. But if you are looking at independent travellers, you can develop B2C digital and video tactics and create your own content that is relevant to Chinese travellers and to the new travel era.” (Gary)

“In terms of social media, WeChat and Weibo are very saturated, so cutting through is tough. Instead, show your local expertise and use your own websites, video stories and narratives to become your own content publisher.” (Gary)

“I agree, and those approaches are super relevant for reaching out to South East Asian travellers as well as Chinese tourists.” (Hannah)

29:25 Q&A “Both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh receive a lot of MICE groups from across the region, so how do you see the future of MICE travel?”

“For the rest of 2020 there will be a reticence among companies to send employees to events because of safety, security and even getting travel insurance. Ultimately it will rebound, but it will take time.” (Hannah)

“Slow and phased recovery for sure, which is bad news for city hotels with ballrooms and function spaces. Two areas that may come back sooner are trade shows and sales incentives, although both on a smaller scale than before.” (Gary)

Summing up:

There are many challenges ahead, especially once inbound travellers return, but Cambodia is a potential rising star for tourism in the region.


Link to the slides from the ‘Attracting Short-Haul Asian Markets to Cambodia’ webinar HERE

Link to Google’s traveller intent survey HERE

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