A few short months ago, tourism was booming throughout Southeast Asia following several years of exponential growth. For example, tourist arrivals increased over 2,000% in Cambodia over the past two decades. With the global COVID-19 pandemic, tourism in Southeast Asia has radically changed direction, with visitation numbers plummeting and many local economies experiencing significant adversity. This panel seeks to explore how COVID-19 is affecting tourism in Southeast Asia by focusing on Cambodia, which has lost 99% of its international tourist arrivals yet maintained a significant domestic tourism industry in the wake of the pandemic.
This panel will include discussions of several aspects of Cambodia’s tourism industry before and after the pandemic, such as: the effects of COVID-19 on performing arts and intangible heritage, and how these industries likewise affect economically disadvantaged groups; how the pandemic is altering tour guide livelihoods near major heritage tourist sites, emphasizing the growth of the tour guide industry as a career option for many young Cambodians and the challenges they now face; the relationship between ecotourism and COVID-19, particularly regarding the usage of the pandemic to cover illegal logging activities that affect future ecotourist opportunities; and an analysis of non-centralized tourist sites that historically rely more on domestic tourism than international visitation, which thus demonstrate the importance of local travelers in re-establishing the tourism industry after the pandemic. By focusing on the complicated situation within Cambodia, we draw conclusions about tourism recovery across Southeast Asia following the pandemic.
Paper Presenter: Celia Tuchman-Rosta – Center for Khmer Studies
Paper Presenter: Chanvirak Sarm – Cambodian Department of Ecotourism
Paper Presenter: Courtney Work – National Chengchi University
Paper Presenter: Matthew J. Trew – Independent Scholar