Last year, whether for business or leisure, 5,602, 157 people made the journey to Cambodia, a hefty 12% increase on the year before. In fact, almost as many people arrived here in the last three months of 2017 as arrived in the entirety of 2006, just 12 short (but transformative) years ago. All this confirms Cambodia’s relentlessly rising arrivals trend as more and more people around the world become aware of its potentials, and while much of that rise can be attributed to predictable sources, there are some surprises in the figures too.
As expected, the bulk of arrivals came from China which, with over 1.2 million check-ins, accounted for more than 21% of the influx. Indeed the bulk of the bump can also be attributed to our northern neighbour, as their numbers rose by more than 380,000 — or 64% of the overall increase — against the year before.
On the other hand, Vietnam’s numbers, which veered just 40,000 shy of a million in 2016, dropped by almost 125,000 to 835,355 last year. Other Asian countries also registered falls, including South Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Thailand. So, while over 345,000 South Koreans made the journey to Cambodia last year, it was still 12,000 fewer than the year before.
To look at the third largest market though, you need to go west, from where Europeans accounted for 855,541 of Cambodia’s 2017 arrivals, or 15.1%of the total, and here there are also some interesting observations to be made.
Eastern Europe’s interest in Cambodia is simply surging. The base numbers are low, for example only 2,670 Bulgarians made the journey to Cambodia last year, however it still represented a leap of 49.9% on the year before and it is part of a trend that seems to be represented across the former Soviet republics. The number of Czechs coming to Cambodia rose 45%, Lithuanians 26%, Slovakians 30%, Romanians 39% and Estonians 51%, and this is just a sample from a region that is posting powerful GDP growth levels. Of the 12 European economies that are predicted to grow by 3% or more this year, nine are former communist countries, including Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Romania and Lithuania.
These records are reflected in the figures posted last month by Cambodia’s airports which saw passenger traffic reaching 8,786,600 last year, a 25% jump on 2016 and surpassing 8 million for the first time ever. But that was little compared to the 33% surge in the number of Cambodians flying into and out of Cambodia’s airports, bringing the total over 1 million for the first time. In fact, according to the statistics posted by the Ministry of Tourism, more than 1,750,000 Cambodians flew, drove, or boated out of Cambodia last year, a huge leap of 22.2% on the year before.
Interest in Phnom Penh in particular is growing, by an extraordinary 49%. Sadly, though, the number of people visiting ecotourism areas has not seen the same levels of interest, accounting for only 1.1% of the visitor share which nonetheless represented a rise of 8% on the year before. On the other hand, there is so little clarity on the meaning of ecotourism in Cambodia that this is hardly surprising. Everybody knows what a beach is though, and thus Cambodia’s coastal zones cruised in to the end of 2017 on a surge of 15%, or 739,884 visitors.
As the rest of the world becomes ever more aware of the treasures to be found here, and Cambodia continues to grow its connectivity — with new flights and routes constantly being added — all of these figures can only continue to rise, up and up and into a bold new future for Cambodia.