Cambodian Ministry of Tourism and tourism experts agree that food and beverage tourism is one of four major services among total 11 services in the tourism industry that plays an important role in feeding Cambodia’s tourism sector.
Minister of Tourism Thong Khon told the Post that for every country of the world, food was the primary recognition mechanism for national taste for visiting tourists.
“Food and beverage service is one of four main important services that include lodging, transport, and entertainment, among eleven in the tourism industry,” he said.
“We see that nowadays the industry needs to improve in quality and creating variety of foods to serve all nationalities of tourists.”
“In other countries, we always test the quality of their foods first because we need to know their national test,” he added.
Mohan Gunti, advisor for the Cambodia Association of Travel & Agency (CATA) said that restaurants are an important factor in the choice of a holiday destination for some tourists. CATA has also found that the restaurants at a destination can enhance the guests’ overall satisfaction with the destination.
Tourists perceive restaurants or the food service industry as an important attribute of a tourist destination.
“Food, wine and alcohol are key elements of anybody’s vacation. Most day trips begin and end with a local food treat of food and drink. Visitors may have become choosier on what they spend their money on, but they are also highly experimental and open to new ideas and tastes. A location can now become a tourist hotspot purely because of its local food and drink,” he said.
“Food tourism can be so powerful that it can outweigh the importance of climate and distance,” he said. “The power of the hospitality industry is important to tourism and thus restaurants and the food industry feed Cambodia’s tourism sector.”
However, he said that despite challenges like rising food and labour costs, restaurants continue to serve local and international customers and create jobs in communities all across the country, thus feeding the Cambodian Tourism industry.
“Travel and restaurants are inseparable,” he said, “Some times travel decisions are determined by the quality, uniqueness, flavors, and popularity of restaurants.”
The hospitality sector in Cambodia is witnessing stable occupancy levels and a steady increase in demand from domestic and international travelers. A steady rise in domestic tourist spending has also brought cheer to this industry, he added.
Meanwhile Van Porleng, president of the Cambodia Restaurant Association (CRA) said that Cambodia offers many choices of food with low prices for customers to enjoy. However, she claimed that it needs to be much improved in quality.
“It would be better to promote a better quality as well with fair and correct prices in order to make businesses sustainable,” she said.
“I don’t know how some of the owners can survive with prices they are selling at. And therefore you can see many of them closing after even less than a year of existence.”
“The wrong image of the industry is that it is often seen as reserved for unqualified, low education level with no possible career evolution,’ she said. “Not enough professional technical institutions are accredited with a food and beverage national curriculum,” she said, adding that so far, the CRA has about 100 outlets.
She said that that Ministry of Tourism was trying to raise standards to an ASEAN level, with green tourism, tourism security and a costal promotional campaign, in concert with the Ministry of Health regarding hygiene for the industry.
“We are at the beginning of a long and positive transformation of the food industry and CRA is collaborating very well with the different ministries.”
Thong Khon said the Ministry of Tourism was currently working to enhance skills and hygiene of all the restaurants in order for them to comply with a national curriculum and ASEAN standards.
“If we use our curriculum which can respond to ASEAN, it not only improves local standards, but we can also mobilize our labour within ASEAN to participate in ASEAN,” he said.
“The ministry currently has a Prakas (edict) on strengthening their services and product quality because we offer a license to operate a business for one year, so they need to renew every year. If we find that they don’t comply with our requirements, we will not renew the license,” he said.
“But, now we don’t have 100 per cent implementation on strengthening our rule due to our lack of a technical school to offer. When we have more schooling, we will require that at least 15 per cent of staff in a restaurant must have gone though the school,” he added.
He said that currently the ministry had some support from France on opening a short training school to provide for those who had never gone through such schooling.
“We got support from France. Moreover, China and South Korea are also conducting their studies to help us.”
On average, tourists spend about $100 on their hotels, food, entertainment and travel and other expenses per day.
Van Porleng said that the CRA would have a big event, an annual national restaurant competition from 10 to 12 October this year at Diamond Island in conjunction with the CamFood and CamHotel events.
The competitions will be to determine the best bartenders, baristas, bed makers, and other activities.
“The purpose of these competitions are to raise the standards of the industry, promote fraternity within the sector, and make our country become one of the favorite destinations where people can enjoy our our hospitality skills,” she said.