The number of Cambodian travelers entering Vietnam is on the high rise, with the primary purpose of these visits quickly shifting from medical tourism to vacation tourism.
Vietnam currently welcomes over one million Cambodian tourists each year – a figure which has surged since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, many local travel firms claim the number of Vietnamese companies offering tourism geared toward Cambodian tourists remains limited.
According to Pham Ngoc Ha, deputy general director of Saco Travel Company, her firm has been facilitating travel for scores of weekend travelers from the Cambodian provinces which border Tay Ninh Province in southern Vietnam.
Popular tourism attractions for these visitors were local pagodas and Ba Den Mountain in Tay Ninh.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these tours lasted just one day.
Now more and more Cambodian tourists are opting for four-day, three-night tours to Ho Chi Minh City and other major urban hubs.
“Recently, we have arranged several tours to Da Nang and Hoi An for Cambodian travelers. They seem to like Vietnamese landscapes. Other destinations, like Da Lat and Phu Quoc Island, have also become attractive to Cambodian holidaymakers,” said Ha, adding that these tours typically include high-end service and accommodation.
Truong Duc Hai, director of Orient Pearl Trading-Service-Travel Company, said that his firm has been offering tours to Cambodian tourists for several years, but it is only recently that he has seen an influx of Cambodian customers, particularly those wishing to visit Vung Tau and Nha Trang.
“In fact, most Cambodian tourists visit Vietnam for medical purposes, but there are no all-inclusive tours for these people,” Hai said regretfully.
Entry procedures must be streamlined
Tran Quoc Thinh, head of the Tay Ninh Tourism Promotion Center, said that the province is at a geographical advantage to Cambodians.
The province borders three Cambodian provinces and features three international border gates, together with 10 additional border gates.
“Cambodian visitors to Vietnam are classified into three groups. The first one includes those entering the country from the provinces bordering Tay Ninh to enjoy holidays and visit the Vietnamese province on weekends,” said Thinh.
“The second group comprises wealthy Cambodian tourists from major cities and provinces such as Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, and Siem Reap who travel to Vietnam for both tourism and medical purposes.
“The final group consists of long-term tourists who enter Tay Ninh and then travel to the Mekong Delta region for trips to Phu Quoc Island.”
To better welcome the sheer number of these tourists, the province has upgraded its lodging facilities and restaurants.
In addition, local tour operators have proposed Vietnam’s provinces sharing borderlines with Cambodia create favorable conditions for Cambodian travelers to enter Vietnam, including shortening the currently two-hour processing time for 45-seat long-haul buses entering the country.
Tour operators also noted that more needs to be done to promote medical tourism.
“Tour operators should work with hospitals to offer tours geared to the needs of these Cambodian visitors,” said deputy general director Ha.
According to the Tay Ninh Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, over 2.1 million Cambodian tourists have entered Vietnam through the province since 2018.
While entries took a plunge during the 2020-22 period due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is now seeing a rebound of Cambodian tourists.
Given the positive signs, the provincial department has rolled out some tourism promotion programs in Cambodia’s tourism provinces and cities since mid-2022.
The two countries’ travel firms have pledged to join hands to popularize tourist services and products among Vietnamese and Cambodian visitors, launch tourism promotion activities, and put forward a series of solutions to drive up tourism between both sides.