Government says it will not renew licences of unclassified hotels after end of next year
JUST 5.5 percent of the roughly 450 hotels in Cambodia have been rated under a Ministry of Tourism hotel classification system, and the remainder have until the end of next year to complete the process or their operating licences will be pulled, a senior official warned Wednesday.
"We are committed to having all hotels in Cambodia classified from one star to five stars by the end of 2010," Prak Chan Dara, the director of the ministry's Tourism Industry Department, said. "If they fail to do it, their annual operating licenses will not be renewed."
A further 12 hotels had submitted applications and were awaiting approval, he said, meaning 413 hotels had not engaged with the ministry scheme launched by sub-decree in 2004.
The hotel classification standards conformed to ASEAN rules, Prak Chan Dara said, adding that the system would boost the credibility of the sector among foreigners. The classification could also be used by hotels to demonstrate their standards against those of their competitors, he said
Of the 25 hotels that have completed the process, five are in Phnom Penh, 19 in Siem Reap and one in Preah Sihanouk province.
Prak Chan Dara urged hotel owners to begin the classification process immediately. Once documents are submitted, the ministry will evaluate and give final classification to the hotel within 28 days, he said.
The criteria included location, aesthetics, services, restaurants, the quality of rooms, swimming pools, gym facilities, massage services and spas. Fees range from US$300 for a five-star classification down to $100 for a one-star hotel and $50 for local hotels not seeking a star rating.
In a major report into Cambodia's international competitiveness released in May, the UN Development Programme identified delays in the implementation of the agreed hotel classification system as an obstacle to the growth of the domestic tourism sector.
"[Implementation] should be undertaken without delay, as this would provide valuable information to tourists coming into Cambodia and further reassure potential holidaymakers of the quality and value of the country's hotels," the report said.
Luu Meng, president of Cambodian Hotel Association, acknowledged Wednesday that few hotels had applied for classification and said the association was setting up a subcommittee to work with the Tourism Ministry to facilitate the process.
Despite the slow start, there is no reason that all of the Kingdom's hotels cannot be classified by the end of next year, he said. "If they need to classify them by then, then why not?" He estimated the Kingdom has nearer to 600 hotels than the ministry's figure of 450.
However, Luu Meng said work still needed to be done to clarify the ministry's classification system, which did not always accommodate cultural differences.
"The classification must be recognisable according to international and ASEAN standards, but it must be workable for Cambodia as well," he said. "Some standards may be good for developed countries but may not be good for developing countries."
Luu Meng also owns Phnom Penh's Almond Hotel. He said a classification form had already been submitted to the ministry, and that the ministry had completed its follow-up audit but had not yet given its approval.
Chea Sony, owner of Siem Reap's 48-room Sydney Angkor Hotel, which opened in 2004, said she had not applied for classification.
"My hotel targets only backpackers or ordinary customers, so I think that it's not important to have it classified," she said. "However, I will follow the law if I must."