Local tour operators are complaining of a generalised drop in service quality in the sector which is stacking the deck against those upholding high professional standards.
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They say the government should intervene to create a fairer market and protect the reputation of the local tourism sector.
Sok Kunthea, CEO of Sky King Travel and Tour, told Khmer Times that local and foreign travel agencies operating in the Kingdom have lowered their standards in recent years in order to offer cheaper prices to remain competitive.
Facing tougher competition from players boasting cheaper packages and services, Ms Sokunthea said she has seen profits at her company decline by as much as 20 percent.
“A number of new tour and travel companies are lowering down quality and prices to attract customers,” she said. “Some companies, especially those targeting outbound tourists, are cheating their customers by offering subpar packages.”
“It is a very unprofessional and unethical practice.”
Ms Sokunthea asks tourists to consider a package’s quality, rather than its price, when deciding what tour operator to go with. Likewise, she calls on all players to level the playing field by securing a license from the Ministry of Tourism to operate in the industry.
Ho Vandy, president of World Express Tour and Travel Company, like Ms Sokunthea, believes service quality in the sector is declining.
He said companies that traditionally offered five-star rated packages have now begun to limit their offer to three or four-star products to lure more customers.
He also pointed out the appearance in recent times of companies with deep pockets but no experience in the sector.
“What I see is that a lot of people with money now choose to start their own tour operator, despite having no experience in the sector. They make it for this lack of experience and quality by offering cheap packages, and they start taking a bigger and bigger share of the market,” Mr Vandy said, adding that government intervention might be needed to stop quality standards from falling further.
“Government officials should get serious about this to protect the name and reputation of the industry. They need to consider issuing strict regulation,” Mr Vandy said.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), an association with more than 300 members, told Khmer Times they have plans to hold a discussion with member and non-member companies to address the issue.
She said discussing the issue directly with industry players to make them understand the importance of professionalism and good practice is needed before resorting to regulating the market through legal means.
“Issuing laws to control the competition is against the free market, so we intend to first request companies to consider the importance of offering good products.
“We will complement this work by providing training to companies in which we will teach how to create effective promotions,” Ms Sivlin said.
Chuk Chumnor, spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism, told Khmer Times that the ministry is already enacting a number of mechanisms to protect the reputation of the industry and ensure players adhere to high professional standards.
He singled out a competition held last month in which several hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and tour operators were given distinctions for the quality of their products and services.
“Our goal is to strengthen the quality of products in the tourism and service sectors to keep attracting tourists to Cambodia,” he added.
From January to September last year, Cambodia welcomed 4.3 million foreign holidaymakers, an increase of 11.8 percent compared to 2017. By 2020, the government aims to attract 7 million foreign tourists per year.