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ASEAN countries border reopening dates unclear

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Tourists visit Bayon temple in Siem Reap province on June 20. Hong Menea

ASEAN countries border reopening dates unclear

As Cambodia's tourism sector suffers due to a 90 per cent drop in visitors from March to June, the Ministry of Tourism revealed that ASEAN countries are actively discussing possible measures to rejuvenate tourism throughout the region.

On June 19, ASEAN countries convened via videoconferencing for the Conference of Federation of ASEAN Travel Associations (Fata) to discuss the reopening of borders.

According to a ministry Facebook post on June 20, the discussion touched on policies to promote domestic tourism between ASEAN countries.

The ministry’s director-general of Tourism Development and International Cooperation, Thong Rathsak, told The Post on Sunday that each country representative presented policies and measures, but a timeframe for border openings is still unclear.

“All the ASEAN countries prepared a plan for advancing travel in the region, but for the opening of borders and airspace, no country has set specific dates yet,” he said.

Rathsak noted that Cambodia has never closed its borders with its neighbours, nor did it prohibit tourists from entering the country.

He also mentioned the recent requirements imposed on international tourists by Cambodia, which includes $50,000 in health insurance, a $3,000 deposit for services related to Covid-19 and a letter confirming a negative Covid-19 test from the tourist’s native country within 72 hours of arriving in the Kingdom.

“We can see from the other side that these [conditions] are not a deterrent because we have carefully considered the disease and Cambodia is the least infected country in Asia,” he said.

According to Rathsak, 1.16 million international tourists arrived in Cambodia from January to March, a 38 per cent decrease from the same period last year.

From March to June of this year, Cambodia experienced a 90 per cent decrease in tourism, Rathsak said.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (Cata) president Chhay Sivlin said 95 per cent of tour operators in the country have had to suspend their businesses during the pandemic.

She said the remaining five per cent plan to offer new products and activities to attract local tourists, including hiking and camping, which are popular with teenagers.

“Cata has been implementing the government’s policy to secure tourism services, including accommodation, restaurants, resorts, community-based tourism services and road and waterways transportation services,” she said.

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