Minister of Tourism Thong Khon on November 10 asked Tokyo to encourage more direct flights to Cambodia and to motivate fully-vaccinated people in Japan to travel to the Kingdom as it prepares to kick off its tourism reopening scheme from end-November.

The minister raised the proposition at the Japanese embassy during a bilateral meeting with ambassador Masahiro Mikami to discuss expanding tourism cooperation between the two countries.

Khon underlined the Kingdom’s determination to bring in more Japanese tourists, as part of its tourism strategy for travellers who have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, noting that the Covid-19 crisis had led to the suspension of virtually all routine international flights around the world.

From November 31, Cambodia plans to roll out the welcome mat in select regions for international travellers who are fully jabbed against Covid-19.

Phase I of the reopening scheme will cover Preah Sihanouk province – including Koh Rong – and neighbouring Koh Kong province’s Dara Sakor area. The Siem Reap-Angkor will be incorporated in January.

The minister also asked Mikami to liaise with the Kingdom on special arrangements to move Japanese travellers to the destinations included in the scheme, and to work with Japanese authorities to look into allowing fully-vaccinated Cambodian tourists and local tour operators to resume trips to Japan.

Both sides agreed to a number of industry-related cooperation plans, such as supporting online workshops to foster linkages between private Cambodian and Japanese tourism businesses, driving Japanese media exposure and more tour options from Japan in the Kingdom, and encouraging Japan-based tourism companies and media to participate in the ASEAN Tourism Forum which is slated for January 16-22 in Sihanoukville.

Other plans entail supporting Cambodia in the development of new tourism products and human resource training for tourism professionals, experience sharing in sports event management, and promotion of the 2023 SEA Games which are to be held in the Kingdom.

Still others include reviewing memorandums of understanding on Cambodia-Japan tourism cooperation and relevant frameworks, and setting up a working group between the Ministry of Tourism and Japanese officials to boost cooperation and pertinent initiatives down the road.

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan told The Post on November 11 that the rush to develop new strategies and spur direct flights from Japan to the Cambodia is crucial to ensuring a smooth travel experience and stimulating economic growth in the Kingdom, which has been significantly hamstrung by Covid-time shocks.

Cambodia welcomes all fully vaccinated international sightseers, he said, sharing that new tourism products and destinations are being set up.

“Japanese tourists are known to be polite, well-mannered and stay in Cambodia between three-to-five nights most of the time,” he added.

However, Sinan noted, Japanese holidaymakers are more inclined to select travel companies from home, which tends to result in smaller fractions of their travel expenses reaching local agencies and other businesses.

From January-July, 886 Japanese tourists visited Cambodia, down by 97.79 per cent from 40,103 in the corresponding period of 2020, according to the ministry.