Cambodia Re-opened Its Borders to International Vaccinated Travelers

The travel industry in Cambodia has reason to celebrate after the government unexpectedly decided to scrap quarantine for all vaccinated travellers.

The Southeast Asian country lifted travel and entry bans after 18 months. This move is in harmony with neighbouring Thailand and Bali in Indonesia.

Through an audio message on his Facebook page, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that select people can now travel through Cambodia in its entirety without going through quarantine. There are;

  • All fully vaccinated tourists
  • Regular travellers, and 
  • Business people

This decision superseded the previous plan to re-open famous beaches to visitors such as Koh Rong, Dara Sakor and Sihanoukville starting from 30th November.

He ordered the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Health, and other related sectors to abide by these measures. He also added that the decision was fast to re-open the country.

On arrival, the only requirement is a PCR test, and if it turns out negative, they can move anywhere as they please. They will have to take two negative COVID-19 tests – one 72 hours or more before travel and one when they arrive in Cambodia.

Unvaccinated Visitors Need to Quarantine

Upon arrival in Cambodia, unvaccinated travellers will still need to quarantine for 14 days. They are also supposed to take a PCR test before getting permission to move freely. 

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Cambodia is the first Asian country to remove restrictions and fully open its borders. It is a relief to the weakened tourism industry. Last year alone, the revenue from this industry drastically dropped from about $5 billion in 2019 to only $1 billion in 2020. The drop reflected a drastic drop from more than 6.6 million visitors to 1.3 million foreign arrivals the year after.

The travel business has been anxiously waiting for full re-opening as the vaccination rates in Cambodia continue to rise. According to All Dreams Cambodia, the country’s vaccination campaign is an incredible achievement. 

The managing director, Jacques Guichandut, was pleased with the outcome. He shared the fantastic news through his LinkedIn, referring to Cambodia as “a small country with a big heart”. As the first Southeast Asian country to open borders without restrictions, he thanked the Royal Government of Cambodia for taking the lead. He affirmed that the country is ready to welcome everyone. 

He previously pleaded for the border re-opening stating that tourism accounted for about 20% of the economy before the pandemic. The Chinese residents will be unable to travel until the second or third quarter of 2022. Therefore, there’s a need to target all international markets.

He demonstrated that the only way to attract international visitors is to remove the restrictions and constraints for the entire country re-opening.

To support his argument, he observed how more than a hundred countries worldwide are ready to receive fully vaccinated visitors, such as;

  • Thailand
  • Costa Rica, and 
  • Croatia

People now have the freedom to choose where to travel and take vacations. Meaning they will only travel to Cambodia if the country promotes favourable conditions.  

Cambodia’s Vaccination Status

Currently, Cambodia is the 11th most vaccinated non-European country globally. It is also where all adults have received the vaccination. Phnom Penh is the most vaccinated capital city, with more than 95% of the residents receiving at least one dose. 

Following the border re-opening to fully vaccinated foreigners, the general expectation is rejuvenation in the tourism industry. Cambodia has so much to offer as one of Asia’s top attractions, but the pandemic forced a shutdown that gradually cut off all revenue.

The successful re-opening bears excellent news as it will be the first time that the new Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh opens its doors to guests after the launch in January. Herman Kemp, the hotel’s general manager, expressed his gratitude for the access to vaccines.

He is confident that since 99% of the staff has the full vaccination, they are in the best position to implement stringent hygiene measures in preparation for the anticipated rise in international visitors.

To quote him, “If Cambodia continues on the current vaccination trajectory, we will most likely become the first country in Southeast Asia to open to tourists”.

 “When that happens, I’m looking forward to welcoming international guests to our beautiful property and showing them all that this amazing city has to offer.”

The Re-opening Strategy

Cambodia’s re-opening process has phases, starting with the Koh Kong Islands on the Gulf of Thailand and Sihanoukville provinces. 

All travellers planning to visit must present evidence that;

  1. They have the full vaccination
  2. Results from a valid PCR test, and 
  3. A confirmed pre-booked hotel or accommodation. 

After staying for five days, they are free to move and visit other destinations within the country.

Siem Reap province follows suit as the second province without quarantine restrictions. After a 5-day stay, travellers can move freely.

The director of Phare, The Cambodian Circus, Said Dara Huot, is optimistic that Cambodia’s strategies to curb the pandemic have a lot to teach us. He notes that currently, the country boasts the most vaccinated population in the region, which ranks high in the world. 

The people’s adaptation to the new normal and learning how to cope with COVID significantly contributed to eliminating mandatory measures forcing the closure of buildings, markets, and communities. 

Those who test positive can isolate, treat and recuperate at home without stigma. The total border re-opening is liberating, and the rational strategies will forever remain as a case study on how Cambodia manoeuvred the pandemic.

“We look forwards to welcoming international visitors with open arms. Phare Circus Artists had their premiere performance in France with a full standing ovation. We shall welcome tourists and artists again with a standing ovation to their performance made possible by the strategies of the government of Cambodia in dealing with Covid.”

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