Prime Minister Hun Manet has urged relevant ministries to explore the possibility of allowing Thai tourists to enter select Cambodian tourist areas using only their identification cards, bypassing the usual passport requirement.

During an October 3 meeting with factory workers in the capital’s Meanchey district, Manet suggested this move would likely boost the number of Thai visitors to the country.

“The peak travel season stretches from mid-October to March, coinciding with their vacation period. I’ve asked H.E Thong Khon and Sok Soken to consider this change. Currently, Thai nationals require a passport to cross our border. We should permit them to travel to Siem Reap using just an ID card,” he stated.

Cambodia garnered nearly $25 million from ticket sales to Angkor Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Siem Reap province, from over 530,000 foreign tourists in the first eight months of 2023.

While this represents a 364.42 per cent increase over the same period last year, it is down by over 66 per cent relative to 2019, the year the Kingdom recorded its highest number of foreign tourists just before the pandemic, as per the Angkor Enterprise (AE).

Between January and August, AE – a state-run enterprise that oversees ticket sales at the park, which includes Angkor Wat – recorded 539,561 foreign visitors, generating revenues of $24.95 million. However, when contrasted with 2019, the figures are still diminished. In that year, 1,662,513 foreign tourists visited the park, contributing approximately $74.34 million to the state coffers.

AE further detailed the ticket pricing structure: one-day passes are priced at $37, three-day tickets at $62 and seven-day access for $72.

Beyond the main site, AE also earned an additional $528,389 from ticket sales for foreign visitors to Koh Ker temple complex – another archaeological site recently inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List, located in Preah Vihear province, about 120km from Siem Reap–and boat excursions at Siem Reap’s Chong Kneas Port.

Prime Minister Hun Manet recently instructed Senior Minister and former tourism minister Thong Khon and incumbent Sok Soken to explore avenues for further easing conditions to bolster foreign tourist influx to the nation.

Khieu Thy, president of the Khmer Angkor Tourist Guide Association (KATGA), expressed optimism about the tourism scenario.

“Although concerns over Covid-19 have considerably subsided, the foreign visitor count to Cambodia is still limited, with the majority being locals,” he said on October 3.

He hinted at a potential upswing in the last quarter, traditionally Cambodia’s peak tourist season, and noted the readiness of those in the sector to restart operations.

“We anticipate a surge in international tourists visiting Cambodia for the remainder of 2023, particularly to explore the country’s renowned ancient temples,” Thy added.

Data from the ministry reveals that Cambodia welcomed a total of 3,501,981 foreign visitors between January and August this year, marking a 250.8 per cent increase from the 998,272 recorded in the same periodlast year. Compared to 2019, the current figures still trail by 19.7 per cent.

The majority of these tourists originated from Thailand (1,186,999), followed by Vietnam (641,758), China (364,844) and Laos (212,984), with notable numbers also arriving from the US, South Korea, Indonesia and France.

In 2022, AE’s earnings stood at $11.78 million from ticket sales to foreign guests. This included $11.53 million from the Angkor park, with additional revenues from Koh Ker ($90,450) and Chong Kneas port ($165,308).