Approved by the National Assembly, the new law is to crack down on unregistered tour operators
Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Foreign tourists wander the grounds of Phnom Penh’s popular Royal Palace last week.
THE National Assembly on Wednesday approved a new draft tourism law, tightening industry regulations as part of efforts to increase security and crack down on rogue operators, officials said.
"Our tourism industry is growing fast, and we need to have a law making the industry accountable," Sam Prumnear, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, told lawmakers Wednesday. "The police will take control of [implementing the law] relating to the sex industry and human exploitation."
Tourism Minister Thong Khon said that around 30 percent of tourism-related businesses did not hold government licences, and that such operators would be given three months from the implementation of the law to register with the government.
Thong Khon added that the general situation of the industry at popular tourist spots was good, but that new rural destinations - especially a string of villages between Siem Reap and Kampong Thom offering home stays to foreign tourists - were still a concern. "There is a need for a public-awareness campaign, and the participation of citizens will help the tourism industry keep growing," he said.
However, opposition leader Sam Rainsy expressed concerns over widespread corruption in the tourism industry and appealed for lawmakers to give at least one year for poor tourism businesses to apply for licences. "Because of the lack of information about the law, smaller businesses will not have enough time to apply for licences within three months," he said.
Foreign tourist arrivals to Cambodia dropped 3.4 percent in the first quarter of 2009, falling to 622,288 from 644,205 in the same period in 2008, according to Ministry of Tourism statistics.