Cambodia’s Mekong anticipates challenges coping with tourism demand

The increased levels of tourism recovery demand for the Mekong region are likely to cause operational in-bound challenges this summer, particularly with traditional markets such as China, stated Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong.

Speaking ahead of her speech at the upcoming Arival Activate event in Bangkok from June 12 to 14 June, Germier-Hamel commented that the Mekong region is not yet fully equipped to cope with surging inbound tourism demand likely to happen for the foreseeable future.

The Mekong region is not yet fully equipped to cope with increasing inbound tourism demand; Angkor Wat in Cambodia, pictured

The Mekong region faces four particular challenges, she opined, stating that the industry has not yet recovered from job losses and the collapse of businesses due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the difficulty tourism companies face in attracting and retaining skilled workers.

In addition, tourism businesses are not equipped to deal with Chinese visitors, as many of the local Chinese speakers have switched over to better-paying non-tourism jobs.

The last challenge is meeting the high expectations of inbound visitors who have waited so long to finally be able to travel.

“While the tourism industry has dreamed of seeing visitor numbers returning to 2019 levels, we are now nonetheless faced with the reality of welcoming all these visitors without the 2019 levels of infrastructure or staff in place,” said Germier-Hamel, adding that with higher expectation from visitors, the “Mekong region is going to be in the ‘high-class problem’ situation of not being able to cope properly with such demand for the foreseeable future”.

As to maintaining the destination’s reputation, such as how visitors will react or what they may say to friends and on social media, she remarked that it is crucial to act now or “risk pushing travellers towards other destinations”.

During the Arival event in Bangkok, Germier-Hamel will elaborate on the causes of these challenges and share advice on how to overcome them through implementation of some policies and strategies like drawing upon local resources and local models, specialising to escape from an over-reliance on traditional segments, building innovative experiences that add real value, creating a brand that draws upon demand from travellers for sustainability and authenticity-focused experiences, and finding ways to engage more with travellers who really care about their experiences.

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