To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
In Session: Tourism and COVID-19 in Southeast Asia: Case Studies from Cambodia
1: The Challenges for Cambodia's Performing Arts Tourism in the Wake of a Pandemic
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Center for Khmer Studies, United States
The National Cultural Policy (2014) issued by Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts proposes that elevating the preservation and development of cultural patrimony attracts both domestic and international tourists. It suggests that culture can be an important element of the economy and help relieve poverty. This emphasizes a long-standing focus on cultural tourism in Cambodia, including performing arts tourism, as well as ongoing connections between arts training and economically disadvantaged groups (Winter 2008, Kallio and Westerlund 2016 and Tuchman-Rosta 2020). My recent fieldwork from August 2019-March 2020 traced a decrease in foreign cultural tourists beginning in 2019 and the eventual decimation of the international portion of the industry—the primary sector for performing arts-based tourism—as the COVID-19 pandemic spread worldwide. This paper will examine how and why international tourism and not domestic tourism became key to performing arts development and preservation in Cambodia and whether this has the potential to change (Shapiro 1993, Chheang 2007, Grant 2014, Tuchman-Rosta 2014). It uses recent ethnographic data to examine COVID-19’s impact on the livelihood of performers in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The pandemic has been managed well in Cambodia thus far, yet it has resulted in crisis for the performing arts—particularly in Siem Reap due to the region’s dependence on tourism. By examining the impact that the current pandemic has on performance in Cambodia, this paper examines risks that a heavy-reliance on tourism creates for the for the performing arts and the innovative ways that artists continue to practice.