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UNWTO comes to Cambodia’s aid with COVID-19 response package while standing to lose $3 billion in tourism revenue

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Angkor Wat in March – scarce tourists. AFP

A technical assistance package of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to rehabilitate the tourism sector in Asia and the Pacific region after Covid-19 crisis has been discussed.

The discussion was made through a recent video conference held with the participation of tourism ministers from UNWTO member countries, including Thong Khon, Cambodia’s Minister of Tourism.

Speaking for Cambodia, Mr Khon underlined the significance of the WTO’s technical assistance package including the planning to restore and develop the economy and tourism during the post Covid-19 period.

The assistance, continued the minister, also covers strategic documents, approaches and recommendations for Covid-19 affected countries to carry out to bounce back economically.

He went on sharing the impacts of Covid-19 on Cambodia’s tourism, stressing that the Royal Government of Cambodia is working hard in containing the deadly disease and responding to its fallouts.

According to a UNWTO report, during the first trimester of 2020, the pandemic pushed the tourism sector down by 22 percent, equivalent to 67 million tourists, causing the loss of approximately US$80 billion globally.

Cambodia will see a huge loss in revenue generated from tourism sector of around $3billion this year due to the pandemic spread, according to the Minister of Tourism.

During the first four month, Cambodia welcomed 1.16 million foreign visitors, a decline of 52 percent compared with the same period last year, according to Minister, causing the tourism industry to reel from the fallout of the pandemic and border lockdowns in almost every country in the region and the world at large.

Cambodia’s dire situation has been compounded by the seemingly excessive entry requirements which would need a $50,000 insurance policy before arrival in Cambodia in addition to a $3,000 deposit on arrival for Covid-19 treatment and testing package.

Cambodia’s tourism sector employs more than 600,000 workers and contributes upwards of 12 percent to the national GDP.

So far around 2,956 tourism-related business in Cambodia has been closed, leaving a further 45,405 people unemployed, according to the Minister.

Analysts, speaking confidentially to Khmer Times said that the Government’s excessive measures were understandable but cautioned that it was being implemented rather late in the game.

“Look around Cambodia. Our neighbours are talking about opening borders gradually to ‘safe zones’, create travel bubbles and green lanes and on the contrary, Cambodia’s recent actions have gone against this trend, a trend which was looked forward to by the business community and travelers who need to travel as a matter of necessity.

“There must be a middle ground for this and this must be clearly identified and found as it is quite obvious the Ministry of Health does not have a clear strategy to deal with the pandemic nor how and when to get out of the many restrictions which are still place,” they said, adding that the key words – “fear is a bigger threat”, seems to have been forgotten.

Cambodia, they stressed, must protect its citizens and people but the latest cases are not a cause for alarm as they are single digit and only one remains in hospital receiving treatment.

“Cambodia’s actions to tighten its border at this stage, which is against what others are dong and most Asean countries had more cases and even deaths are doing the opposite is of concern, unless there is information and data at the Ministry of Health which is not being revealed,” they added.

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