- February 1 deadline for
obtaining agency licence
- Deadline extended to April 1
- 200 percent fine, on top of fee cost, for travel agencies that register after revised deadline
- $5,000 must be deposited at National Bank of Cambodia
TWENTY-seven percent of illegally operating travel agencies have been licensed by tourism authorities following a government crackdown announced in January, according to officials.
The crackdown follows a nationwide effort to clean up the tourism sector by tightening rules and boosting quality standards.
The Tourism Ministry said in January that 22 unlicensed agencies were operating countrywide, and gave them until February 1 to obtain permits. But the ministry said that some agencies have been evading authorities.
The government has a responsibility to ensure fair
"After our announcement, only six travel agents have come to register for licences and another six unlicensed travel agents have closed already. The others don't have permanent offices and cannot be found," said Prak Chandara, director of the Tourism Ministry's Tourism Industry Department.
He said that about 300 travel agencies are licensed in Cambodia.
The government said that unregistered travel agents and agents with expired licences will have one month more to register or extend their licences, or face fines and penalties.
"From April 1, if any illegal agents or licensed agents come to register or extend their licenses, we will fine them 200 percent of the payment fee," he said. The fee is US$300.
"To get a licence for a travel agent, the law requires that the operator deposits US$5,000 at the National Bank of Cambodia, just in case something happens. It is for the benefit of guests. If they are not made to do this, the agents might abandon guests that have made reservations," Tourism Minister Thong Khon said last month.
He assured the agencies that the government will not steal the money held by the national bank. "The deposit still belongs to them, not us. It is to ensure that they have the funds available for their customers," said Thong Khon.
Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Tourism Working Group and head of the Steering Committee of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said there is a growing problem with illegal travel agencies in Siem Reap province.
"[Illegal tourism companies] are doing business without taking care of tourists after they buy tickets from the companies - they are only after their own profit," he said. "If they get registered legally, the government can earn a lot of profit from taxes. The government has a responsibility to ensure fair competition in the business."
He said that the tourism industry has pressed authorities to enforce licensing requirements, saying that rogue agencies are bad for the country's image. "On behalf of the co-chairman of the Tourism Working Group, we have tried to encourage those companies to follow the law," Ho Vandy said Tuesday.