The Ministry of Tourism and the private sector have discussed a nearly 200-page draft roadmap to restore the tourism sector during and after the COVID-19 crisis for the period 2020-2025.
Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said during the meeting that the development of this project will be an important mechanism needed to respond to the current situation as well as to the future.
“The roadmap is an important part of Cambodia’s vision to be achieved, while the private sector has also shown a lot of support.”
The minister said the plan to rehabilitate and promote Cambodia’s tourism sector in and after the COVID-19 crisis (2020-2025) is scheduled to be submitted to the upcoming meeting of the National Tourism Development Committee before being submitted to the government.
Participation by the private sector included the Cambodian Tourism Association, the Cambodian Restaurant Association, the Asia-Pacific Tourism Association of Cambodia, the Cambodian Hotel Association and the Cambodian Tourism Federation.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said that the ministry needs input from the private sector.
She said the roadmap is putting in place measures to restore the tourism sector, which is expected to take up to seven years to return to normal.
“In this phase, what we are going to do is to help the sector survive, to keep the sector alive so that we will be able to recover after the pandemic,” she said.
Sivlin said that the private sector, which has severely affected hotels and travel agencies, needs financial assistance from the government to maintain operations.
“We insist on assistance from the government for finance in order for the sector to stay alive. We have experts and we don’t want to lose them,” she said. “Some tourism-based enterprises are now exhausted and they cannot pay their staff even as little as 50 percent. They could close their businesses and will not be able to restart when the situation returns to normal. We need a loan package from the government.”
She said the private sector has already submitted a request to the Ministry of Tourism and expects to get a response when the draft on the roadmap is finalised.
“We need loans provided by the government because we cannot access loans from banks and MFIs (microfinance institutions) in this situation. We are concerned that expert staff will leave the sector and then we will lack human resources when the pandemic ends,” she said.
The government together with financial institutions early this year launched the SMES Co-Financing Scheme (SCFS) of $100 million to support the country’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs), especially during COVID-19.
Dexter B.K. Tan, chief executive officer of the SME Bank, said that from the SCFS fund, more than 90 percent of SMEs loans were loaned to manufac -turing such as food-processing and manufact- uring of goods for the tourism sector as well.
Cambodia welcomed a total of more than 6.6 million international tourists last year. According to a report from the Ministry of Tourism, the country received a total of 1,226,543 international tourists in the first eight months of this year, a decline of 71.9 percent compared with the same period last year.