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Measure to offset tourism sector wages amid virus: Government

Sen David / Khmer Times Share:
Waitresses at a restaurant in Phnom Penh. KT/Siv Channa

The government  announced on Tuesday a measure to assist minimum wage workers employed in the tourism sector amid COVID-19 fears.

It said in a statement the government will pay 20 percent of the workers’ minimum wages as the tourism sector deals with loss of income.

The statement said the financial measure will apply to those who are suspended from their jobs at hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and travel agencies.

“[The workers] are required to attend a short course by the Tourism Ministry,” the statement said. “Payments will be made to employees in the tourism sector with links to the National Social Security Fund.”

In addition, the statement said the government will provide tax exemptions to businesses in the tourism sector in the cities of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kep, Kampot, Bavet and Poipet until May.

According to the Tourism Ministry, tourism declined by 52 percent earlier this year.

The World Bank has predicted the Kingdom’s real economic growth will slow to around 2.5 percent this year mainly because of the coronavirus.

Last month, the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation recorded declining numbers of foreign visitors amid COVID-19 fears.

SSCA spokesman Sin Chan Sereyvutha said the number of Chinese tourists declined by 82 percent after many travellers in China decided to stay home.

Chenda Clais, president of the Cambodian Hotel Association, said about 650,000 people were employed as hotel staffers, cooks, drivers, tour guides and travel agents but the number has since dwindled after some businesses suspended operation.

“Some owners had no money to pay wages because they had no income from the hotels,” Ms Clais said. “Others are trying hard to make payroll and provide food to [employees].”

She noted that the government must find a way to save the tourism sector as a whole, not just businesses in tourism hotspots in the Kingdom.

“Hotels in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri have also suffered because of COVID-19 – no guests have been coming,” Ms Clais said. “Two hotels there have already shut down.”

Thou Srey Mom, a restaurant worker in Phnom Penh, said her employer suspended operation.

“I decided to go home after my employer temporarily closed the restaurant,” Ms Srey Mom said. “[The employer] gave me a bonus, but spending money on food is still difficult when we are suspended.”

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