They should seek to neutralise any activities that could generate poor publicity or create challenges for the government’s action plans to support the post-Covid-19 recovery of the tourism industry.

The request was made as he addressed the 19th Government-Private Sector Forum, held at the Peace Palace on November 13. Manet acknowledged that although the number of domestic and international tourists travelling in Cambodia has increased, they have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

“We have established a committee which will prepare mechanisms that will lead to practical activities, as we cannot just make plans on paper. We need to make sure our house is in order before we invite guests to visit. If we are not prepared to greet them well, they may tell others not to visit,” he said.

He also announced the “Visit Siem Reap 2024” campaign, which aims to promote tourism activities in Siem Reap, the home of the cultural jewels of the Angkor Archaeological Park, and the backbone of Cambodia’s tourism industry. He made it clear that the government is not only concerned about Siem Reap, but that it will serve as a model for other provinces.

Manet explained that the government has chosen Siem Reap as the first target location for the new tourism development initiative, noting that if successful, it will pave the way or the roll out of similar frameworks across the country.

“Both government institutions and the private sector must work together to promote tourism. The government will offer tax relief to related businesses and is working to improve infrastructure and increase the number of direct flights,” he said.

“In addition, the state-owned Small and Medium Enterprise Bank of Cambodia will release $50 million of initial loans with competitive interest rates to tour operators in Siem Reap,” he added.

Ho Vandy, advisor to Cambodian Tourism Association (CATA), expressed his support for the government’s measures to promote tourism, and agreed that selecting Siem Reap as the first model province will be beneficial, both to the private sector and the government.

“This will benefit all of us, both in the wider private sector, the tourism sector and the government. We would like to see details of the plans tabled, so we can all discuss their implementation,” he said.

He added that the measures proposed by Manet would help restore Cambodia’s tourism sector, but believed that the first step will be to involve the private sector and the government, with a prototype plan put into practice.

He called on all tourism operators to comply with the government’s guidelines, and urged the public to play their part by maintaining order in society, so as to provide favourable conditions for the growth of national tourism.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, also commented on the importance of security and order, as the tourism industry can be very fragile when it comes to the reputational harm that can result from bad publicity or perceived security challenges.

“Some of the obstacles to the development of tourism in Cambodia include: security and public order, as well as the development of creative products and services. At present, the industry is based on natural and cultural attractions, but I believed we could diversify,” he said.

“Dishonesty by traders and other service providers may also cause problems, as could irregularities at international border crossings, or demands for ‘under-the-table’ payments,” he added.

He suggested that the government strengthen tourism diplomacy, meaning the Kingdom’s potential as a destination should be promoted abroad, so more people become aware of it.

“This promotion should also include sharing positive news from within the Kingdom, so as to counter misreporting about the security situation. The government needs to pay more attention to tourism packages and guarantee that pricing is accurate and adhered to by tourism operators,” he added.