The Covid-19 crisis has convinced a wide range of countries around the world of the importance of tourism in promoting economic growth, as well as its vital role in reinforcing relations and solidarity between nations, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen on November 3.

The premier highlighted this during his opening remarks at the 5th ACMECS (Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy) and 6th CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) Tourism Ministers Meetings. The ACMECS subregion includes the CLMV countries as well as Thailand.

“This meeting really shows our strong regional solidarity. It is a special opportunity for ACMECS and CLMV tourism leaders to assess the impacts of Covid-19 on tourism sector, set out appropriate strategies for recovery and enhance more cooperation,” Hun Sen stressed.

He lauded the efforts on the part of industry leaders and key partners under the ACMECS and CLMV frameworks to improve tourist flows among member states as well as to partake in and encourage collaboration to bring in more extra-regional travellers through initiatives that promote the multi-nation groupings as a single destination.

The past couple of years, marred by the pandemic and subsequent challenges, have highlighted the tourism sector’s relevance as a support for economic growth and national progress, as well as “its role in strengthening relations between nations, solidarity and friendship between the countries in the region”, he said.

He suggested four broad goals for ACMECS and CLMV to improve the regional tourism foundation and development approach in the post-Covid-19 world.

First: Step-up cooperation towards adding variety to tourism products, while maximising complementarity and leaving holidaymakers with a feeling of “diversity”, in line with the dynamic post-Covid tourism trends.

Second: Amid the unprecedented pace of digitalisation, promote experience-sharing on the corresponding changes and evolving needs in the tourism sector, especially in areas such as digital literacy training and skills development as well as promising technologies that could increase productivity and provide competitive advantages.

Third: Support intra-regional travel and market member states collectively as “one destination”, improve travel network connectivity across all modes of transportation, and promote “self-driving tourism” schemes – or those allowing foreign-plated vehicles access to designated zones abroad – to attract extra-regional tourists.

Fourth: Establish ACMECS and CLMV secretariats or similar coordinating bodies to facilitate the implementation of tourism action plans.

Hun Sen volunteered Cambodia as the host of the aforementioned entities.

Speaking to The Post, Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin underlined that tourism is an important contributor to economic growth and international cooperation in essentially all areas. However, having emerged nearly three years ago, Covid has put global tourism in a slump.

But the global battle against Covid-19, and untold efforts to devise strategies thereof, started a gradual recovery in the tourism sector, she said.

Things are looking up for Cambodia as well. Sivlin added that domestic and international tourist numbers have been picking up, which she sees as “an important part” of improving people’s living standards.

Still, a more substantial recovery in tourism “will have lots of positive effects for the country and improve international cooperation around the world”, she said.

The Ministry of Tourism on November 2 estimated that the full-year 2022 numbers of international visitors to Cambodia and domestic trips nationwide would reach 1.8-to-two million and 11 million, respectively.

In the January-September period, the ministry recorded 1.266 million international visitors and 9.660 million domestic trips – 267,500 and 1.012 million in September alone.

Of note, if the corresponding figures for each remaining month this year are equal to or greater than the September numbers, the full-year totals would top 2.068 million international visitors and 12.697 million domestic trips, passing the upper bounds of the estimated ranges offered by the ministry.