Cambodia and nine other ASEAN member states signed a protocol to amend the bloc’s Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) last week in Thailand with the aim of enhancing tourism expertise in the region.

Commercial attache Heng Sovannarith, representing Cambodian ambassador Ouk Sophoan, presided over the signing of the protocol on January 5.

In 2012, the 10 ASEAN member states signed the agreement to facilitate the mobilisation of tourism professionals and the exchange of information on best practices in education and vocational training based on their skills.

The accord also sought to provide opportunities for cooperation and capacity building across the ASEAN region, according to the Cambodian embassy in Thailand.

Top Sopheak, spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism, told The Post that the agreement was made in a bid to exchange experiences in the tourism sector among members for their mutual benefit.

“Through the MRA, tourism professionals from each ASEAN member state regularly hold events such as seminars and consultations to share new ideas to improve skills for individuals and employers in the industry,” he said.

Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter (PATA), welcomed the amendment of the MRA, applauding the region’s mutual support in the tourism sector while calling for more action.

“ASEAN member states should cooperate more to develop a mutual vision that facilitates greater progress. What I see most from ASEAN is only on paper, while actual implementation is less,” he said.

The Cambodian embassy said the amended agreement would recognise 32 types of jobs in the hotel and tourism services industries as topics for shared discussions, as well as assist with organising tourism industry-related events to increase the competitiveness of industry professionals and promote services across the region.

According to a report from the tourism ministry, 1,286,074 international tourists visited Cambodia in the first 11 months of last year, down 78.2 per cent from 5,898,130 in 2019.