The new public-private sector tourism body says price cuts could lure tourists back to Cambodia, but others warn the global downturn will keep numbers low
Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Tourists at Angkor Wat. Government authorities and the private sector hope to lure visitors with lower prices and better security.
DRASTIC price cuts and aggressive promotional campaigns may be in the works to reinvigorate Cambodia's hard-hit tourism sector, officials say.
The president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, Ho Vandy, told the Post a tourism task force, comprised of travel agents, airline and hotel officials, tourism police and associated government ministries, met Minister of Tourism Thong Khon on Thursday.
The task force urged price cuts and stricter security measures to attract international visitors following instability in neighbouring Thailand and terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
"If we can reduce the price of our tourism services, it will help promote our country to travellers who are increasingly cutting their spending," Ho Vandy said.
Tight security would also boost confidence among potential travellers, he added.
"Terror attacks in other countries have provided an important lesson for us to consider," he said.
Alternative transit routes
Cutting airfares and increasing air service routes from countries other than Thailand were key points of discussion, Ho Vandy said.
"The political chaos in Thailand is not likely to end soon, so we need to promote more direct flights from other hubs," he said.
He said lower airfares, airport taxes and admissions for Cambodia's most popular attractions could encourage more direct flights that bypass Bangkok.
Between 10 million and 12 million tourists visit Thailand every year, with many of them including Cambodia on their itineraries, he said.
But Sokhara Ted Tann, deputy general manager of Korean Air, said the situation in Thailand has begun to improve and questioned whether the measure proposed by the task force would have any impact.
"The most significant issue is the world economic crisis," he said.
Meoung Son, an independent tourism analyst, also questioned whether more direct flights were possible.
"The government should start by reconsidering its unfair and poorly serviced airport tax. Moreover, admission fees and hotel rates are already in line with those in neighbouring countries," he said.
"Hotels, restaurants and bars earn their profits principally during only three months of every year. The airports get their profits every day."
Bun Ratha, president of Siem Reap International Airport, said he is in favour of cutting the airport tax, but said it would require approval from the government and the private company that operates it.
"I think the government has to discuss this with Cambodian Airport Management Services, a French company that earns the airport tax."