PHNOM PENH, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia on Monday welcomed the first group tour of Chinese tourists after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a representative of the kingdom's tour and travel operators said.
A flight carrying some 140 Chinese tourists in a group tour landed at the Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday afternoon from Southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, receiving a warm welcome from Cambodian tourism officials and tour operators, said Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents.
"Tourism Ministry's Secretary of State Hor Sarun and I greeted them at the airport upon their arrival and presented them with roses, wrist garlands, and traditional scarves," she told Xinhua via telephone.
Sivlin said the tourists, on a five-day tour program, will visit capital city Phnom Penh, the cultural province Siem Reap, and the coastal province Preah Sihanouk.
"We're very happy to receive the first batch of Chinese tourists in a group tour today," she said. "Their comeback is crucial to help boost the recovery of our tourism industry."
The arrival of the Chinese tourists came as China, one of the world's largest outbound tourism markets in the pre-pandemic era, resumed outbound group tours.
Starting from Monday, China resumed outbound group tours to 20 countries, including Cambodia, Thailand, the Maldives, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, and New Zealand.
China was the largest source of foreign tourists to Cambodia in the pre-pandemic era, a Ministry of Tourism's report said, adding that the kingdom received 2.36 million Chinese tourists in 2019, generating about 1.8 billion U.S. dollars in revenue.
Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the Southeast Asian nation is projected to attract at least 1 million Chinese tourists in 2023, an expected increase from merely 110,000 in 2022.
"China is the most important outbound tourism market for the world, so China's resumption of outbound tourism is very beneficial not only to Cambodia, but also to the whole world," he told Xinhua.