The Ministry of Tourism has created a Telegram bot and invited tourism operators and business owners to register employees on the application who have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
The move is an ostensible push towards the wider reopening of the industry, as the Kingdom surpasses a 96 per cent vaccination rate for the target adult population of 10 million, as shown by the daily vaccination progress report on September 6.
Ministry spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on September 8 that the ministry had configured the application to manage the data of all legally-registered businesses in the tourism sector.
“Once they have entered the data in the Telegram bot, we can easily manage it and collect information,” he said.
“In particular, businesses will be more easily able to handle tourists who visit their attractions.”
The Kingdom has seen a gradual return of domestic tourism after local attractions were allowed to reopen on April 25, reversing closures imposed on April 17, Sopheak noted.
But not all localities have allowed tourism activities at resorts and destinations to resume, he stressed. “The Ministry of Tourism has been working with other provincial administrations to do a better job during Covid-19.”
“We are keen for visitors to holiday at any destination we can open, but we must keep venues shuttered in areas with restrictions.”
Sar Sarin, Cambodia Association of Travel Agents secretary-general and president of tourism firm Channel Group, contended that the main objective behind the ministry’s initiative was to provide the tourism sector with the accurate data needed for informed management.
He attested that the industry had been battered and cruised by Covid-19, forcing a hefty portion of businesses to suspend operations or shutter permanently,while others have resorted to alternative means of working.
“The Telegram bot provides a great deal of convenience for the Ministry of Tourism. Not only does it make it easy to manage [data], but also to ascertain the number of businesses and people working in the sector to prepare for the reopening of tourism, and above all, to provide greater confidence to tourists about safety issues,” Sarin said.
According to the Ministry of Health’s daily vaccination progress report on September 6, Cambodia had vaccinated more than 96.09 per cent of the target adult population of 10 million and 85.55 per cent of the 12-17 age group of nearly two million.
The tourism ministry spokesman believes that the government’s rapid Covid-19 vaccination drive will be a major contributing factor to the promotion and recovery of the industry, as the Kingdom moves towards mass immunity.
“The tourism goal will then be to start up again piecemeal, because people will be immune everywhere, and this will complement the promotion of tourism,” Sopheak affirmed.
And Sarin lauded the jab drive as “well-organised”, echoing Sopheak’s sentiment that strengthening the immunity of the population has helped revitalise the tourism industry.
“I believe the industry is ready to welcome holidaymakers as soon as the government decides to reopen tourism,” he said.
The private sector is eager for a tourism reopening, which many expect to come as soon as next month, the peak season for regional travellers and those from Europe, he said, counting on a post-pandemic burst in pent-up travel demand.
On September 1, the Ministry of Tourism introduced a set of minimum standard operating procedures (SOP) for four major classes of tourism businesses, which is geared towards the “new normal” of the industry.
These SOPs are tailored to support businesses in their daily activities and enable them to adapt to the post-Covid-19 world, as the Kingdom emerges from the pandemic and pushes ahead with tentative plans to reopen tourism towards the end of this year.
The four classes of businesses covered by the SOPs are tourism accommodation service providers; tourist eateries; tourist resorts; and eco- and community-based tourism operators.
Tourism ministry figures show that, in the first half of this year, 102,560 foreigners visited Cambodia, marking a steep decline of 91.3 per cent compared to the same period in 2020.