The Ministry of Tourism will meet with the private sector on May 27 to discuss the future of package tours in post-Covid Cambodia, one of the components of tentative government plans to resuscitate the tourism industry in the fourth quarter of this year.
A virtual closed-door meeting on May 24, led by minister Thong Khon, set out key action plans that include preparations for the gradual reopening of tourism in October-December, with an initial focus on the Angkor area in Siem Reap province.
In pursuit of rebuilding trust and confidence in travellers, another proposal would allow international tourists from low-risk countries and territories who have been fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to enter the Kingdom with little or no quarantine stay.
The plans would open the door for package tours that come with “reasonable” price tags, in a bid to ensure the industry’s regional competitiveness.
The ministry plans to present a concept paper at May 27’s meeting with the private sector for further discussion, and request feedback and inter-institutional cooperation next week before submitting a government decision.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin said private tourism businesses are ready to work with the government, through the ministry, on the revival of the Covid-wracked industry.
“We are ready to work with the government to build trust with tourists. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. We have to regroup to reorganise our services together to receive tourists,” she said, stressing that Siem Reap’s tourism sector is in dire need of rescue.
Reeling under more than a year of the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism service and product providers can no longer sustain business, she said.
She called on business owners to keep staff on standby and be ready to take action once the ministry moves forward with its plans.
“All enterprises need to be prepared in advance, being that the initial reopening of tourism is crucial for providing a sense of confidence to tourists.
“At the same time, the public sector is making arrangements ahead of time to welcome tourists, such as cutting bureaucracy at international checkpoints,” Sivlin said.
On April 1, Prime Minister Hun Sen formally approved a 2021-2025 three-phased national tourism roadmap and a 2021-2035 Siem Reap provincial tourism development master plan to navigate the sector’s emergence from the Covid-19 pandemic and support its recovery.
A tourism ministry report revealed that 1.31 million international tourists visited Cambodia in 2020, down 80.2 per cent from 6.61 million in 2019, while Cambodian travellers made about nine million trips to domestic destinations, a year-on-year decrease of 20 per cent.
Last year’s decline in international tourist arrivals cost the Cambodian tourism industry more than $3 billion lost in revenue, with revenues from international tourism generating only $1.023 billion in 2020, down 79.2 per cent compared to $4.919 billion in 2019.