Cambodia won a total of 17 ASEAN Tourism Standards (ATS) awards at the recently held ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF), which took place on February 5 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

ASEAN handed out 158 ATS awards to its members for the implementation of the bloc’s tourism standards, including 43 awards for accommodations, 29 to tourism communities, 48 for high-quality public toilets and 38 for spa services.

Thong Rathasak, director-general for Tourism Development and International Cooperation at the Ministry of Tourism, represented Cambodia at the event.

He said the winners of the awards who attended the ceremony were community members, business owners, as well as officials from the relevant tourism departments and capital-provincial administrations, with the senior-most officials being the deputy governors of Phnom Penh, Koh Kong, Kampot, Preah Sihanouk, Kampong Speu and Kampong Thom.

“By winning these ASEAN Tourism Standards 2023 Awards and in light of the continued development of critical infrastructure and the success of major events held recently in Cambodia, it has become clear that the Kingdom has attractions and destinations which are very appealing because of our warm climate, the safety of our communities and our clean and green environment,” he said.

He added that winning these awards coincides with the promotion of ‘Visit Cambodia 2023’ and the country is also preparing for the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and ASEAN Para Games, which are major regional sporting events, in May.

He noted that among Cambodians, the domestic tourism movement continues to grow, which is something that gives confidence to international tourists and will attract more of them to visit the Kingdom in the future.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents adviser Ho Vandy said the 17 awards for Cambodia’s implementation of the ASEAN standards could help make the Kingdom more attractive to tourists, especially visitors in the ASEAN region who are most likely to encounter news items about it.

He continued that if Cambodia cultivates a reputation as a country that pays close attention to the implementation of tourism standards and provides good service to customers when visiting the country, it will only help to boost interest in visiting the Kingdom among tourists around the world.

“The image of our country is important if we want to expand tourism. Cambodia has a lot of cultural, historical and natural tourism destinations to draw in travellers from all over. These awards clearly show that Cambodia has organised better tourism services than in the past and that it encourages its tour operators to serve their customers’ needs better, not only for their own businesses but also for the sake of the image of the country for the future,” he said.

According to the tourism ministry, the ceremony for the ATS Awards 2024 will be held in Vientiane, Laos, which is the next host country for the ATF. The theme for next year’s forum is “Quality and Responsible Tourism – Sustaining ASEAN’s Future”.