The prolonged suspension of tourist visas to foreigners and strict health measures could kill the tourism and the aviation sector, according to a tourism industry insider.
The tourism sector has been severely affected by the pandemic. Total visitor numbers fell 52 percent From January to April 2020, with the nation welcoming around 1.16 million foreigners, according to figures from the Ministry of Tourism.
Cambodia also saw a drop of 70 percent of international tourists and 50 percent local travellers, costing around $3 billion and affecting businesses related the hospitality sector, according to the figures.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents President Chay Sivlin said strict health and safety measure made people reluctant travel.
She said that Cambodia should start open up and lift the restrictions gradually, starting with local tourists. She added that the government should set up a clear standard on the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 to build confidence among tourists.
“We require tourists to obtain a health certificate indicating a COVID-19-negative status and proof of health insurance documents with a minimum medical coverage of not less than $50,000 during their intended stay in Cambodia, so we can select the tourists or travellers who have good health,” she added. “With these measure we can prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
If this situation is prolonged to the end of the year, we will have an economic tourism crisis.
“We assume that the government will lift the restrictions by end of the year, but it does not mean that the tourists will flock to Cambodia. This sector will only operate well when people feel safe and the economy is good. It takes times to regain business, then it will take another six months to take off,” she added.
“We saw some neighbouring countries start to lift restrictions and they have plans to re-open and they asked Cambodia, when we could open for business and link with them. “If we [the government] maintain restrictions and measures, especially the suspension of tourism visas, it will kill tourism,” Sivlin added.
State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha, said: “The Cambodian government pays close attention to public health so the measures will be careful and prevent imported COVID-19 cases. Travellers are investors, government officials and businessmen, but we do not see growth in tourism. If this mechanism continues much longer, it will be difficult to attract tourists,” he added.
“Public health is important because it is the foundation to develop the economy. If a lot of Cambodian people get sick, the economy will also get sick. When more people are affected, foreigners will not consider visiting Cambodia. The government is being clever but careful about the risks.”
Economic and Finance Minister Aun Pornmoinroth said in a statement on Monday that he agreed to a request by the Ministry of Health to charge foreigners for COVID-19 laboratory tests, quarantine and medical treatment services.
He instructed the Health Ministry to discuss with relevant banks the possibility of setting up offices at airport for foreigners to pay a $3,000 deposit.
The Health Ministry said in a statement that a foreigner will have to pay $5 for a single trip between the airport and the waiting centre, $100 for a COVID-19 test, $30 for a day’s stay at a hotel or at a waiting centre while waiting for the test results and $30 for three meals during their wait.
It added that if any passenger tests positive for COVID-19, those on the same flight will be quarantined for 14 days and each will be required to pay $100 for one test and $84 dollars a day to pay for the stay in a hotel or quarantine facility, meals, laundry, sanitary services, doctors and security services.
According to the statement, each COVID-19 positive patient will be required to pay $100 per test [maximum four tests] and $225 a day for the hospital room, medical treatment, meals, laundry and sanitary services. It added that in case of death, the cremation service charge is $1,500.To date Cambodia has 126 Coronavirus cases, most of which were imported.