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Fast payments in tourism to get leg-up

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Tourists are waiting for boats to carry them from a pier in Sihanoukville to Koh Rong islands last year. Hong Menea

Fast payments in tourism to get leg-up

The Ministry of Tourism plans to spearhead a bigger push for digital technologies, particularly in rapid-payment systems, and harness next-level innovations to guide the ailing tourism sector out of its Covid nightmare and chart a prosperous post-pandemic path.

This endeavour comes amid government plans to reopen the tourism industry in the fourth quarter of this year for international tourists who are fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

The plan was explored at a national workshop on rehabilitation of the Kingdom’s tourism industry during and after the Covid-19 crisis, via video link on July 1.

The event was attended by speakers from public and private institutions, representatives of the Mekong Tourism Coordination Office and other stakeholders.

Thong Rathasak, director-general of the ministry’s Tourism Development and International Cooperation, said the workshop was aimed at gathering feedback from stakeholders and exchanging experiences concerning tourism rehabilitation, to turn Covid-19 challenges into opportunities.

Another area of discussion was the upcoming plan to loosen entry restrictions for fully-vaccinated international tourists in the October-December period, he said.

He stressed that the ministry’s drive for practicable rapid e-payment services would require the participation of the private sector, a key party in the development of technological solutions and innovations that could facilitate tourism from beginning to end of guests’ visits.

“Discussions highlighted the need for the development of fast and easy payment technology, essential in the Covid-19 epidemic phase, to reduce the use of banknotes and make payments easier to manage cash flows and security,” Rathasak said.

Wonderpass Technology Co Ltd CEO Frederic H Proulx, has emphasised that his company pursue additional investments in quick and easy payment systems and other technologies for the Cambodian tourism sector.

One such venture under its belt is the smart-ticketing mobile app Winderpass.

Proulx said: “Tourism in Cambodia is expected to grow significantly after the Covid-19 crisis, and quick payments will make a significant contribution, as it is not just about quick payments – it will also lead to the management of tourism events and sports tourism.”

Payment systems in Cambodia have seen remarkable strides in line with the evolution of financial technology (fintech) and significantly contribute to the development of the national economy, as digital transactions witness a Covid-19 boom, the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) said in the 2020 annual report on the payment system.

The central bank reported on May 11 that payment systems have offered substantial support for economic development by providing an efficient and secure financial infrastructure to facilitate transactions, as well as payments for trade in goods and services, and on financial markets.

“Payment systems provide a convenient, secure, fast and affordable way to transfer funds electronically among economic agents, and have contributed to a more efficient central bank monetary supply,” it said.

According to tourism minister Thong Khon, 346,518 domestic trips were made across the Kingdom last month, up 78.58 per cent month-on-month but down by 43.4 per cent year-on-year.

He said Cambodian holidaymakers accounted for 342,109 trips, with foreign residents making up the remaining 4,409.

Domestic tourism has witnessed a marked rebound after the government on April 25 lifted an inter-provincial travel ban and ended the closure of tourist destinations across the country, except for resorts in locked down provinces.

The minister added: “Tourist destinations in coastal areas – especially Kampot, Kep and Sihanoukville – as well as ecotourism, nature tourism and agro-tourism sites have been the main destinations, attracting a lot of domestic tourists.”

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