Former Filipino president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday called for greater cooperation between Cambodia and the Philippines in the tourism sector, specifically asking for an increase in the number of direct flights between both countries.
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Ms Macapagal-Arroyo made the remarks on Saturday during a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Pampanga province, the Philippines.
“We call for the implementation of the Philippines-Cambodia Tourism Cooperation 2016-2020 programme,” she said.
“The joint tourism plan aims to revitalise tourism industries between the two countries.
“One of the priorities is the establishment of direct flights from Manila to Phnom Penh as well as Siem Reap,” Ms Macapagal-Arroyo was quoted as saying in the local media.
The Philippines-Cambodia Tourism Cooperation 2016-2020 programme was one of four agreements signed during a state visit by President Rodrigo Duterte to Cambodia last December.
“Another goal of the programme is to enhance the exchange programme for Filipino and Cambodian hospitality and tourism students,” she added.
Ho Vandy, the secretary general of the Cambodian National Tourism Alliance, said implementation of the tourism cooperation programme would result in more tourists for both sides.
“If cooperation on tourism is further enhanced, it will bring more Filipino tourists and businessmen to Phnom Penh.
“Likewise, package tours to the Philippines will increase because now there are a lot more Cambodians that can afford to travel abroad,” Mr Vandy said.
A lack of direct flights connecting the capitals of both countries is keeping potential passengers who do not want layovers while travelling between Cambodia and the Philippines, said Mr Vandy, adding that tour packages to the Philippines are scarce compared with those available for other countries in Asean, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
However, passengers wishing to travel between both nations can board a direct flight operated by low-cost airline Cebu Pacific Air that connects Siem Reap and Manila four times a week.
Last year, Cambodia received about 100,000 Filipino tourists, a 27 percent increase compared with 2015, according to figures from the Ministry of Tourism.