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Cambodia considers how to cope with its first tourism catastrophe

Sorn Sarath / Khmer Times Share:
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, is helping to seek a solution to the tourism crisis. KT/Tep Sony

The Ministry of Tourism is seeking recommendations from the COVID-19-hit tourism-based businesses in order to prepare a rescue plan for the sector.

Businesses such as hotels, guest houses, resorts, massage and spas, restaurants other tourism-related businesses can share their recommendations in order for the ministry to define the scale of the impact and come up with solutions after the crisis ends, said the ministry

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, told Khmer Times the Ministry’s measure will provide an important input to restore the sector to its previous increasing health.

“We have informed our members this will help the ministry define how the companies were affected and then they can make decisions,” she said.

“However, we didn’t receive the response as much as we expected because most companies have already closed.”

This is the first catastrophe we have encountered, with as many as 99 percent of tourism based-businesses closed. “We have nothing to say now. We are stalled,” she said.

According to Sivlin, only 1 percent of businesses remaining open are mostly in Phnom Penh and they are serving only long-stay expats and investors.

“Some hotels are still open. They don’t want to close because they need to keep their skilled staff members. They don’t want to lose them or they will be in a position with no talent when the situation returns to normal,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the world to suffer both in terms of public health and economically, especially a poor country such as Cambodia.

COVID-19 has affected a total of 630,000 people in the tourism sector and some 30,000 of them are now unemployed, according to Sivlin.

She said the time to rebound will involve two phases, first locally and then internationally.

“We will focus locally first and the Ministry of Tourism is now preparing to boost local tourism I think that will take about months bounce back and a year for regional travel,” she said. “We have a strategy that we will start to attract visitors from neighbouring countries and gradually the Asean region.” However, she said to restore the whole industry to its previous, improving condition could take up to four years.

Sivlin said that the association is in talks with the Asean Tourism Federation (ATF) to boost the sector in the region.

“We will have a meeting with [the ATF] in the next few weeks, which will be participated in by Asean members because don’t expect many long-haul flight visitors. We first should focus on intra-Asean travel,” she said, adding Cambodia will attract more Chinese than other Asean members.

“Because we have good relations with China and expect that they will help us in attracting visitors from China. We are looking for the Chinese and South Koreans as the second target,” Sivlin said.

Ministry of Tourism data shows that Cambodia welcomed 6,610,592 foreign visitors last year, a 6.61 percent increase from 2018. Chinese tourists topped the list, with 2.36 million visitors, an increase 16.7 percent. Vietnamese ranked second with 908,803, up 13.6 percent.

Vietnamese ranked second with 908,803 visitors, up 13.6 percent.

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