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Tourism operators decry unlicensed rivals

Tourists wander around the ground of Phnom Penh’s iconic Wat Phnom yesterday afternoon.
Tourists wander around the ground of Phnom Penh’s iconic Wat Phnom yesterday afternoon. Pha Lina

Tourism operators decry unlicensed rivals

At its first meeting this year, the Public-Private Sector Working Group on Tourism sat down at the Ministry of Tourism last Friday to once again address unfair competition from tourism-related businesses that are not licensed or registered, as well as plan out upcoming fairs and events.

Luu Meng, co-chair of the government-private sector working group, said that the group was working on finding a way of formalising tourism-related businesses, given the Tourism Minister Thong Khon said that only 40 per cent of tourism businesses were registered in Phnom Penh.

“I think a lot of businesses are talking about the minister’s announcement that about 40 per cent of people have [a] licence and he is thinking of working on that to make everyone better,” Meng said.

The group also created a task force that will look into public and private sector cooperation in seven key sectors, including a “Clean Up Cambodia” campaign, noise disturbance from bars and restaurants, and safety and security at tourist sites.

Meng added that regulating already-existing restaurants and bars in residential areas for noise pollution levels was already on the ministry’s to-do list and that notifications would be sent to businesses instructing them to monitor their noise levels.

While the issue of unregistered businesses has been discussed for more than a decade, it has been a demand of the private sector for a while, according to Ho Vandy, adviser to the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and former co-chair of the group.

“It will be responded by the public sector if it is possible to answer at the level of ministry. But if it is hard it will be Prime Minister Hun Sen who will have to decide,” Vandy said.

Unlicensed operators are only increasing the risk for tourists who may have no recourse if they face problem with such businesses, he added.

“If you have only one laptop and you do tour operation, you have to pay no tax. You don’t hire staff. And you can earn a lot,” he said.

“An unlicensed operator will run away and will not be responsible when something happens.”

Suggestions have been made to the Tourism Ministry to create an online portal to get feedback from tourists about such unregistered businesses, helping the authorities act on these cases, Vandy said.

“If the tourists or overseas tour operators do not check this it could be a problem in few instances,” he said.

Sinan Thourn, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said there was satisfaction with how the government was handling the matter, however did not provide any specific actions carried out so far.

“Not all of the problems can be solved in one day but the government will continue to resolve these issues,” he said.

“You can see there are a lot of businesses running without licences so the government came up with an online system [to encourage them to] apply for the tourism licence as well as an online guide.”

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