To assist the recovery of the Kingdom’s tourism industry which had been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic – following the late 2021 return to normal socio-economic activity – the government, in collaboration with NGOs, is providing technical skills and core training to enhance the sector’s human resource capacity.

Having identified the importance of this training, the Ministry of Tourism, with the support of national and international organisations, is providing hospitality training to people working in the tourism sector throughout the country. This will enhance their professionalism by focusing on frontline skills in food and beverage services, housekeeping and community tourism as well as ecotourism, among other specialised areas.

In the first half of this year, the Hospitality Kampuchea (HOKA) project, in collaboration with its Skills Development Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, trained a total of 884 tourism professionals, 596 of them women. The sessions focused on individuals who are working directly in the field. The courses achieved strong results as they concentrated on both theory and practice, and were limited to no more than 20 participants.

The implementation of HOKA prioritised five provinces – Kratie, Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri – but will expand the scope of training to Battambang, Pailin, Pursat, Banteay Meanchey and Oddar Meanchey provinces, all destinations with perceived potential for a growth in visitor numbers.

Chuob Ratana, director of the Department of Tourism’s development, planning and tourism skills training, said other courses focused on many important angles, including the ASEAN tourism standards implemented by the ministry. To date, tens of thousands of people have attended all training courses.

“This training is in response to the fact that the two years of reduced trade under Covid-19 meant the sector has lost many professional staff,” he said.

Lang Pisey, Kratie provincial tourism training’s core trainer, who trained both tourism business owners and employees in the province, said that previous training had been conducted in rural areas but had recently focused on food, beverage, housekeeping and reception skills in Kratie town.

He said that following the training, the attendees had returned to their businesses and used what they had learned to train more staff.

“Many of those who studied with us have successfully implemented what they were taught. More importantly, they have passed these standards on to their colleagues in the industry,” he said.

Ly Vanthou, a Koh Trong guesthouse and coffee shop owner who attended a training course, said she learned a great deal about how to run an operation to international standards. She said that before the course, she ran her business in an overly relaxed family style.

She said that guests who come to stay or dine with her appreciate the orderly nature of her business. They say it is of as high a standard as any five star hotel, she added.

She urged all tourism business owners to attend these courses to ensure they could keep up with the demands of modern national and international visitors.

“They should attend these sessions so they learn the things they don’t know about the industry! Once these new skills are applied, all of our businesses will be more attractive,” she said.

The Cambodia Tourism Association conducted an August 19 training course to improve the skills of Siem Reap’s tour guides and hospitality staff. 1,124 participants attended.

Chhay Sivlin, president of the tourism association, said the programme aimed to improve their existing talents and help workers return to the sector. Many people were made redundant or changed careers as a result of Covid-19 he said, but they would be needed to drive the post-pandemic recovery.

“To ensure the training went well, 49 core trainers from ASEAN Tourism Professionals Consultants (ATP) participated,” she said.

She said the successful collaboration was an excellent step towards preparing the province’s workers for the future return of tourists.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon praised the efforts of the tourism association and its partners.

“It is true that the Covid-19 crisis forced many tourism professionals away from their careers; therefore it is necessary to refresh their skills following an absence from the industry,” he said.