Ministry of Tourism calls on companies in Siem Reap to slash prices by 20pc in attempt to revive flagging visitor numbers
Tourists wait outside the Royal Palace Sunday in Phnom Penh. The tourism sector has suffered from the global economic crisis.
MINISTRY of Tourism officials plan to ask private sector tourism service providers in Siem Reap province to lower the price of individual services and package tours in a bid to bolster tourism during the low season, which runs through September.
Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Monday that the request was in response to new ministry data indicating a 14 percent decline in foreign tourists to the province during the first four months of 2009.
Figures from the Apsara Authority, which manages Angkor Wat, point to a decrease of 22.38 percent during that same period. Nationwide, foreign tourism declined by only 2 percent.
Officials will broach the idea during a meeting with hotel and guesthouse operators, restaurant owners and transportation providers during a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Thong Khon said.
Thong Khon said he believed the prices of package tours in particular should be significantly reduced.
"I think we can at least cut the price by 20 percent, and then we will try to advertise the lowered prices in order to attract more tourists," he said.
Thorng Khon called for print and electronic media companies - including television and radio stations - to offer discounts on advertisements placed by tourism service providers.
Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Government Private Working Group on Tourism, said the request to lower prices by 20 percent could be acceptable as long as service providers received assistance from the ministry.
"In line with the discount, we need support from the government, and we want to know how the government can help the private sector," he said.
As an example of potential support, Ho Vandy said the government should consider lowering electricity rates for tourism service providers, as "electricity is very necessary for tourists while they are in Cambodia".
He said; "If the electricity price stays the same, how can we lower prices by this much? Price reductions should start from the government and then carry over into the private sector."
Several tourism service providers said they would not be averse to the price reduction.
Price reductions should start from the government and then carry over.
Lach Lei, an independent French-language tour guide, said he would lower his rates if all tour guides agreed to do so.
Panha, owner of Do Do Guesthouse in Siem Reap, said she had already lowered her prices by 20 percent in May because of the decrease in tourists.
Pok Samnang, president of the Khmer Angkor Tour Guides Association in Siem Reap, said the association had not had time to consider the request but noted that tour guides' rates were often negotiated with hotels.
"Sometimes, they agree to US$10 to $15 per day, but usually English-language tour guides are paid $20 per day," he said.
Crisis causes closures
Ho Vandy said this year's tourism decline, which he attributed to the global economic downturn, had already forced several hotels to close and several others to reduce their employees' hours.
He said "thousands" of hotel and restaurant employees had lost their jobs since the downturn began.
According to April 2009 ministry figures, Cambodia saw 622,288 tourists in the first quarter of the year, a decline of 3.4 percent. The number of tourists in April increased by 2.3 percent compared to April 2008.