The COVID-19 infection rate in Cambodia has been much lower compared to other countries around the world and for this we thank God. However, the knock-on effect on the Cambodian economy will be long felt, be it in absence of the thousands of tourists who will not visit the country or the loss of exports for the garment industry.
These industries, employing hundreds of thousands of workers, will suffer long-term effects of the disease despite the decline in infection rates or the relaxation of shopping restrictions in the west. We live in a global economy and developing countries like Cambodia depend on healthy, well managed buying and selling arrangements, any hold-ups or failures in the system has a downstream impact. Many garment workers, already on a tight budget, have had their hours cut, some being suspended and others have been dismissed. As a result, they have tried to find other work around the city or returned to the provinces to live with their already burdened families.
The tourism industry has also been hit hard with this virus and far fewer visitors are coming to see the sights of this beautiful nation. Whether due to fear or restrictions, people are not booking holidays to the Kingdom. Cities like Seim Reap, that normally see thousands of tourist flocking to see the temples, has been described as a ghost town. Added to the possible fear of travel are the formalities that are required by the Cambodian government for entry to the country. Visitors are having to produce prearranged clearance documents, are required to undergo tests on arrival and to place a large sum of cash as a deposit on arriving at the airport. While all precautions and provisions for quarantining in case of infection may be advisable, all factors and costs considered, this will result in a drastic reduction in incoming travellers. There has been a sharp decrease of budget airlines connecting flights into Cambodia from major airlines. Thai Airways, a popular carrier, are not taking any bookings until September.