The global travel industry has suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Cambodia has been especially hard-hit and the government has initiated several programmes in response.
The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), a local independent thinktank, said yesterday at a video conference that the four regions facing the most impacts are Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, coastal and the north-east.
Chan Sophal, director of CPS, said: “Registered businesses are hit hardest, but those that are non-registered have also experienced a reduction in sales.”
The government offers several relief measures and the three most received programmes are tax and fee exemptions, rental negotiation and bank-MFI debt restructuring, Sophal said according to research completed in August.
The IDPoor assistance transfers cash to vulnerable households, but Sophal said more needs to be done specifically for people working in tourism. “The provision of a skills improvement training programme for affected workers appears to be a wise policy option,” he said.
“It is highly desired that the government maintains the debt restructuring policy and ensure effective cooperation from the creditors,” he added.
Sophal offered four recommendations for assisting affected workers, a cash stimulus, the creation of urban jobs and off-farm employment, the formation of labour unions among workers in the informal sector and strengthening prevention measures to ensure adequate supplies of hygiene facilities at workplaces.
Heng Sour, Ministry of Labour spokesman, said the government will continue to help. “The main measures that the government has provided to the tourism sector include subsidising workers, continuing to provide health insurance benefits and all types of monthly tax exemptions,” he said.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) said: “The [economic] reduction is not only international tourists but also domestic. About 3,000 travel agencies suspended their business and we estimate 60,000 tourism workers are unemployed.”