Business operators in the tourism sector consider the government’s decision to waive the renewal fees for all types of tourism licences for 2021 a small but welcome gesture towards helping to ensure that the industry can remain sustainable.
This comes in light of the spread of Covid-19, which has caused the number of visitors to the Kingdom to plummet for most of the year.
From January to October, Cambodia received a total of 1,267,890 international tourists, down 76.1 per cent compared to the first 10 months of last year, which saw a total of 5,296,088 tourists visit the Kingdom, according to a report from the Ministry of Tourism.
Minister Thong Khon signed a letter on December 8 addressed to the provincial and municipal governors reiterating the implementation of the government’s decision to waive the tourism licence renewal fees for next year.
The letter said the move aims to help stabilise the businesses and livelihoods of owners and workers in the tourism sector, as well as to prop up economic growth in light of the severe negative impact to the economy set on by the global Covid-19 crisis.
“The waiver of all types of tourism licence renewals in the tourism sector for 2021 will be implemented from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021,” the letter read.
Ministry spokesman Top Sopheak said that from January 1 to December 31, 2021, tourism businesses that need to renew their licence will not be required to pay the ministry for the service, but all companies must still apply for a licence renewal.
He also noted that anyone seeking a new tourism licence next year will be required to pay the usual fee, and businesses with expired licences will still be subject to monetary penalties.
“This is the government’s policy of partially easing the burden on the private sector to make the sector more sustainable,” Sopheak said.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin told The Post on December 10: “We are happy with this decision because it is part of helping companies reduce costs.”
However, she claims that the waiver of the licence fee alone will not be able to ensure the tourism sector’s continued profitability and success, due partly to the fact that most companies still have many other tax obligations.
She further remarked that the inter-ministerial experts had determined through detailed study that it could take as long as five to seven years for the industry to recover to its previous levels.
According to Sivlin, there were about 700 tour operators in Cambodia before the outbreak of Covid-19, but many are now closed. “Hence we need more help from the government,” she said.
Ho Vandy, the president of travel agency World Express Tours and Travel Co Ltd, said that from March until now, the number of foreign tourists visiting Cambodia has dropped significantly. “National tourism can move forward as long as the tour operator is well-off both physically and financially,” he said.
According to Vandy, in previous years his company has typically had to pay a licence tax at the ministry that cost him between $1,200-$1,400.
Licences issued by the ministry include those for tour companies, travel agencies, tour operators, hotels, guesthouses, resorts, entertainment venues and restaurants.
According to Sopheak, large-scale tourism licences – those for businesses with a large number of services, restaurant tables, or rooms in hotels and guesthouses – require a licence obtained at the ministerial level, while licences for smaller businesses can be applied for through provincial or municipal-level authorities.
But in all cases, large or small, there will be no licence renewal fees for 2021 for tourism businesses – a small piece of good news in an otherwise difficult year for the entire Cambodian tourism industry.