Licensed tourism agencies say the new law – 10 years in the making – will help prevent illegal operations and support a level economic playing field
TOURISM service providers have welcomed the new Tourism Law, which came into effect last week. The law aims to develop the sector - one of the Kingdom's economic pillars - in a sustainable way that contributes to poverty reduction and preservation of national culture.
An Kim Eang, the president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA), said the law would benefit service providers.
"I welcome this new law on behalf of the whole private sector, because it will generate competition, and service prices will not be set excessively high or freely," he said.
An Kim Eang added that the new law would help protect providers from violations by government officials, who he said previously accused some operators of illegal activities.
Lao Heng, general manager of VLK Royal Tourism based in Phnom Penh, echoed An Kim Eang's view, saying that the new law prevented businesses from operating without a licence.
Without this law I am certain investors would not remain here.
"Before this law we encountered a number of difficulties ... our company is large, and operates legally," he said. "We have to pay our taxes, and that means we make a profit of just US$2 to $3 per ticket. But smaller companies were able to sell at a lower price because they don't pay taxes."
Ministry of Tourism Undersecretary of State So Mara said the entire process had taken 10 years involving in-depth discussions with the private sector.
"Both the private and the public sectors must fall under the umbrella of this law - and I believe it will ensure effective management, quality and sustainability in the tourism sector," So Mara said. "Without this law I am certain investors would not remain here."
So Mara said the ministry is in the process of informing tourism providers about the provisions of the new law. Operators in Phnom Penh were informed last week, and the ministry's information effort is to roll out to other operators nationwide next.
One of the provisions of the new law is covered by Article 50, which requires all tourists to respect the country's traditions and customs. Another - Article 70 - bars minors from going to adults-only entertainment areas, and businesses that flout this could be fined up to 10 million riels ($2,500).
Under Article 65, owners or managers of unlicensed businesses are liable to a fine of up to 20 million riels ($5,000).
But not everyone is convinced the law will apply equally to all. Bun Hay, who owns the Angkor Mondial Restaurant in Siem Reap, questioned whether powerful businesspeople who manage to evade other laws would feel obliged to obey this one.