The government on December 24 announced a seventh round of stimulus measures for the aviation and tourism sectors aimed at boosting their business activities and easing their financial burden in the face of severe challenges stemming from the spread of Covid-19.

The measures will extend the 10 per cent minimum tax exemption for all airlines registered in Cambodia for a period of three months from January to March next year, the government said in a press release.

At the same time, the government has extended the payment of civil aviation fees for three months and allowed the airlines to arrange for the payment of debts outstanding in instalments after the extension period.

The government will also extend its $40 payments to suspended employees in tourism-related businesses, including hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and travel agencies based in Phnom Penh, Kampot, Preah Sihanouk, Kep and Siem Reap provinces or Bavet and Poipet towns.

It called on employers to offer them additional perks on a voluntary basis.

The government will also extend its offer of bearing patent tax and stamp duty charges for travel agencies and tour operators.

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan said the government’s renewed tax exemptions for the tourism industry are a small but welcome gesture that will ease some of the burden off the operators’ shoulders.

He said: “The extension of the government’s favourable measures for the sector is a welcome breath of fresh air. [But] we’ve yet to witness a positive sign of recovery for the tourism industry.”

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng noted that this latest round of stimulus measures would better serve to alleviate the burden on the public sector and allow businesses to stay afloat during this time.

“These measures have trimmed taxes and lent a helping hand for the private sector. So far, no companies have gone bankrupt,” he claimed. “I understand that if these measures continue, the private sector will be motivated to do their business.”

Hong Vanak, an economic researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s Institute of International Relations, observed that the government’s implementation of the past six rounds has brought significant, targeted and effective benefits to the tourism industry.

He said: “They seem happy and appreciate that the measures have been very effective, while the industry hadn’t been able to run at full capacity during the Covid-19 outbreak.”

According to data from the Ministry of Tourism released early this month, international tourist arrivals to Cambodia dwindled down to 1,267,890 in the first 10 months of this year, sinking an unprecedented 76.1 per cent from the 5,296,088 recorded in same period last year.

A total of 734,309 tourists entered the Kingdom through its three international airports in January-October, taking an 80.2 per cent year-on-year nosedive, while 533,581 arrived by land or waterways, plunging 66.3 per cent year-on-year.

Chinese tourists once again topped the list at 314,291 visitors, representing an 84.5 per cent year-on-year dip.

Thai, Vietnamese and US tourists numbered 194,774; 181,328; and 55,170, all of which dropped by 41.5, 74.8 and 71.6 per cent year-on-year. Tourists from the UK, France and Japan all registered lower figures over last year.