The Phnom Penh municipal Department of Tourism and its 24 provincial counterparts are seeking to raise awareness among beer garden owners and operators of the minimum standard operating procedure (SOP) and relevant ‘new normal’ guidelines, to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and ensure safety at these establishments.

Ministry of Tourism secretary of state Pak Sokhom organised a virtual ceremony among officials from the country’s 25 tourism departments on November 8 to kick off the dissemination campaign for the ‘new normal’ of beer gardens.

The minimum SOP and ‘new normal’ rules for beer gardens focus on six key areas: customer safety; staff safety; setting up and maintaining a venue; kitchen operations and maintenance, and food and beverage handling; and following and ensuring compliance with government instructions.

Speaking at the event, Sokhom underlined that beer gardens are present at various tourism hotspots, offer an attractive nocturnal entertainment choice for travellers, and fit well with government ambitions to stimulate domestic tourism.

As beer gardens reopen, adherence to all the applicable ‘new normal’ protocols will be key to maintaining business stability and ensuring the safety of national and international holidaymakers, he said.

Siem Reap provincial Department of Tourism director Ngov Sengkak told The Post that the department on November 10 would pay a visit to 30 beer gardens in the province and spread the word on the minimum SOP and the ‘new normal’.

“Business owners are overall preparing to reopen, but we will disseminate the SOP first to let them know more,” he said.

“And in case they don’t comply, we won’t let them run their businesses.”

Preah Sihanouk provincial Department of Tourism director Taing Sochet Kresna told The Post that beer gardens have never been very popular in the province, despite its strong tourism potential.

Even before Covid, there had only been “four or five” of these establishments, he said. “For Preah Sihanouk, it’s easy because the beer garden market is small, so dissemination will be fast and the conduct of the owners will not pose a problem either.”

Holidaymakers made 174,543 domestic trips across Cambodia during the first weekend of the month, from November 6-7, a week after the government ordered the full resumption of socio-economic activities, with Preah Sihanouk province ranking as the top destination, the ministry reported.

The ministry noted that 169,532 Cambodians and 5,011 foreign residents visited Phnom Penh (35,210) and the provinces of Preah Sihanouk (37,641), Kampot (16,501), Siem Reap (15,100) and Pursat (10,447).

The remaining 20 provinces saw 59,644 visitors over the two days, each with fewer than 10,000.