Tourism industry insiders have called on the government to discuss the possibility of delaying interest and principal repayments for businesses within the sector that have been economically destroyed by COVID-19.
The request follows a report from the Ministry of Tourism which shows that
as of April 17, there are 2,698 hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and travel agencies in the hospitality business in tourism sector, have been closed across the country.
In February, the government announced that registered hospitality businesses in the badly hit province of Siem Reap – which had seen its usual 2 million visitors a year at the world-famous Angkor Wat temple complex dwindle to virtually nothing – would be given a four-month tax break until May.
Last week, the government also rolled out a further three-month tax exemption (covering March to May) for similarly affected businesses in Phnom Penh, Preah Sihanouk, Kep, Kampot, Bavet city and Poipet city. Mondulkiri and Rattanakiri are two provinces that have escaped relatively unscathed.
In a letter to tourism department directors, Tith Chantha, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, said the tax exemption was made in line with the government’s measures aimed at assisting the private sector and workers affected by the pandemic.
However, Van David, Senior Associate of Public Private Partnership at the Platform Impact and a regular commentator on the sector, said that while the industry will appreciate the government’s measures, they don’t take into account that many of these businesses still won’t be able to pay at the end of the tax break.
“I think granting tax exemption to the hospitality sector may be a good attempt but the issue here is those establishments may not even qualified to be “taxable” because the industry has practically collapsed during the pandemic,” he said.