Prime Minister Hun Manet announced at the 19th Royal Government-Private Sector Forum on November 13 that the administration, via SME Bank, will launch a direct loan programme.

The initiative, starting with an initial budget of $50 million, aims to assist tour operators in the province with reasonable interest rates and favourable terms, enabling them to secure financing suited to their business type.

The government has also introduced tax incentives to help balance and alleviate financial strain on the tourism industry. The measures include exemption from all types of monthly taxes, except VAT and accommodation tax, for hotels, guesthouses, travel agencies and restaurants conducting business in the province and registered with the General Department of Taxation (GDT).

The exemption is effective from October 2023 until the end of the first half of 2024.

Thoeun Thearith, an employee at the Aviary Hotel in Siem Reap, stated November 14 that with the resurgence of tourism in the province, the government’s support has opened more opportunities for tour operators and business owners to expand their capacities.

“I find that this special budget package allocation is a timely response for business owners in Siem Reap who require funds to upgrade their hotels and restaurants in anticipation of the influx of international tourists this winter,” he said.

Thourn Sinan, president of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia Chapter, voiced his approval of the assistance and release of relief funds to the tourism sector.

He noted the support is especially crucial for those who have endured the impacts of Covid-19 for many years, leading to a complete standstill as numerous businesses were forced to shut down.

“Government assistance is a positive step for operators in Siem Reap. Although the budget is not substantial, it offers them more chances to sustain their business as the arrival of foreign tourists … starts to rise this winter,” he stated.

He urged relevant authorities and private businesses to collaborate in enhancing the appeal and innovation of tourism products, aiming to ensure the sector’s sustainability.

“What I encourage both the government and the private sector … to do is to consider the reform of all Cambodian products, such as commodities, religious items, film products and so forth. This requires collective attention and adjustments to make them unique and attractive,” he said.

“We can no longer rely solely on selling the same products, like Angkor Wat. Therefore, it is imperative that we collectively deliberate on this matter to foster sustainable growth in the sector,” he added.

According to data from the Siem Reap Provincial Department of Tourism, as of the first nine months of 2023, Siem Reap had 831 operational tourism businesses. The figure represents over 71% of the total 1,165 tourism-related businesses in the province, encompassing accommodation services, hotels and restaurants.