According to media sources in Phnom Penh, the visa exemption for citizens of five states in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has cost Cambodia’s treasury US$14.1 million in reduced revenue since it was introduced in January 2008.
Citizens from Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam currently qualify for the exemption.
Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon told the Phnom Penh Post that the visa exemption agreement will be extended next year to Thailand, and by 2015 to the remaining three ASEAN members of Brunei, Indonesia and Myanmar.
“We realize that our visa-exemption program for travelers from ASEAN countries results in lower national revenues, but we will continue it because increased arrivals can boost economic growth kingdom-wide and will create many jobs,” Minister Thong Khon said.
Tourism is one of Cambodia’s key economic engines. More than two million tourists visited the country last year, many drawn by the Angkor Wat temple complex in the northwest.
The Ministry of Tourism reported that Cambodia issued 278,842 visas to ASEAN nationals in the first six months of 2009, which cost the government US$5.5 million. That compared with 431,426 visa exemptions issued last year at a cost of US$8.6 million.