Siem Reap: Perhaps the city hardest hit by the pandemic in Cambodia has been Siem Reap. It was designated ASEAN’s “City of Culture” for 2021-2022, but the pandemic has meant that it’s been unable to take advantage of that accolade, with hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors having evaporated, but that’s soon set to change.
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has announced that tree-planting and cycling events at the Angkor World Heritage Site are to be organized, while it still holds the ASEAN chairmanship of Culture and the Arts until the end of next year. Secretary of State in the Ministry, Sou Mab, says the events will showcase the potential of Siem Reap to other ASEAN countries, describing it as Cambodia's most famous cultural city.
This could well be the shot in the arm that Siem Reap needs. It’s been decimated by the pandemic, with international arrivals drying up and most of is hotels closing permanently. Lockdowns, border closures and a mass road beautification project, scheduled to be completed before the end of the year, have also kept most local tourists away. Barely 35,000 people visited Siem Reap over Pchum Ben – less than 5% of the total share of domestic tourists over the holiday, but things are looking up.
Tourists are starting to return across the region, and Cambodia is perhaps just weeks away from reopening its borders to fully-vaccinated tourists. Thanks to the road upgrades, as well as to the restoration work being carried out at Angkor, a refreshed and revitalized Siem Reap will soon be the jewel in Cambodia’s tourism crown once again.