Myanmar, Cambodia pin hopes on China tourists for post-pandemic restart

Tourism authorities in Myanmar and Cambodia are eyeing to recapture the Chinese market once travel resumes.

At the latest meeting of Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG), Hla Myint, director (promotions department) at Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, said the ministry has held virtual meetings with a number of Chinese tour operator representatives this week.

Cambodia aims to recapture Chinese outbound travel market; Chinese tour group visiting Bayon temple at Angkor Wat complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia pictured

He elaborated: “The immediate emphasis is on encouraging the development of domestic tourism, but we also need to think about when we open our doors to international visitors… We are preparing to receive Chinese travellers in post-pandemic times.”

In 2019, China drove Myanmar’s tourism sector. A total of 344,268 arrivals saw a 75 per cent year-on-year increase, making the destination Myanmar’s number one source market.

At a webinar conducted by Mekong Tourism Advisory Group, Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism’s Hla Myint (top row; middle) said the ministry has held virtual meetings with Chinese tour operators as it looks to recapture the China market when travel rebounds

Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism (MoT) is also pinning hopes on China leading its recovery. Top Sopheak, secretary of state and MoT spokesman, said the country will continue to promote its “China Ready” strategy – a five-year plan to lure more Chinese visitors.

He added that tourism companies in the country are preparing a range of new tour packages targeting Chinese tourists post-pandemic.

Since 2017, Cambodia has welcomed a rapidly rising number of visitors from China. In 2019, more than two million Chinese tourists visited Cambodia, marking a 16.7 per cent year-on-year rise.

In another move, Cambodia this week lifted travel bans in place since mid-March on six countries: Iran, Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the US.

Despite preparations being put in place, Xu Jing, former director of the UNWTO, warned not to expect any major international recovery until 3Q or 4Q of this year.

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