Hotels and tourist-oriented accommodation businesses classified as small or medium taxpayers are no longer required to register for a rating – based on a one-to-five star system – for their establishments or pay for the service as of August 4 until further notice, according to a notice issued by the Ministry of Tourism on the same day.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents adviser Ho Vandy explained to The Post on August 8 that hotels and accommodation businesses must be evaluated annually, for a fee, and assigned star ratings.

In general, businesses in the service industry must have annual turnover from 250 million to six billion riel ($62,500 to $1.5 million) to be classified as small or medium taxpayers, according to Prakas No 009 issued by the Ministry of Economy and Finance on January 12, 2021.

The Post understands that hotels and accommodation businesses currently in operation must still receive a rating for this year, as scheduled by the tourism ministry.

The notice affirmed that the rating process is handled by a commission under the ministry, and pointed out that the move was in line with Notification No 36 dated January 21, 2021 issued by the Council of Ministers in conjunction with the second meeting of the Policy Action Committee for the Promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME).

Vandy said the tourism ministry’s latest move would, to some extent, lessen the financial burden on these smaller enterprises during these still-trying times where owners “must bend over backwards to reopen, and most have become indebted to banks trying to restore their businesses”.

A slew of infrastructure projects have taken off across the Kingdom, a fair portion of which observers believe will enhance regional tourism development. In the southwestern coastal province of Preah Sihanouk, struggling hospitality industry players are pinning their recovery hopes on the 187.05km Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, which the government plans to soft-launch on October 1, free-of-charge for commuters in the first month.

One such player is Chhin Chanra, owner of The Freedom Guest House in Sihanoukville, Preah Sihanouk. He told The Post on August 8 that, despite the tourism ministry’s tax breaks and other forms of financial support, most guesthouses in the province have yet to see any exceptional improvements in business, with occupancy rates remaining in the doldrums.

“Tourists only ever come in large numbers on holidays and weekends – there’re barely any on normal days,” he said.

“We’re hoping there’ll be a pick-up in visitors when the expressway is operational, otherwise, the doors to my guesthouse may very well shut for good.”