Cambodia and Saudi Arabia have pledged to strengthen tourism ties and launch direct flights between the two Kingdoms.

The vow comes after Phnom Penh issued an announcement heralding Cambodia as a safe travel destination, the Ministry of Tourism said in a statement on January 28.

The statement was made following a meeting between Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and Saudi ambassador Saud FM al-Suwelim at the ministry on January 27.

The two sides also discussed strategies to draw in more Muslim sightseers to Cambodia, which Khon emphasised that the country is keen to receive, owing in part to targetted initiatives taken by his ministry

that are designed to put the nation on the map as an appealing holiday destination for this group of travellers.

The minister said the Cambodian government has put roadmaps in place to restore and spur travel across the Kingdom during and after the Covid-19 crisis that rely heavily on vaccination, and rolled out various

strategic policies to underpin a tourism recovery in the region.

The 40th ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF 2022) a couple weeks back serves as a prime example of why Cambodia is a safe tourism destination, Khon said, noting that all of more than 400 international attendees from 27 countries received a negative result on PCR tests taken prior to departure.

Khon asked the ambassador to help promote Cambodia as a safe tourism destination in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Suwelim voiced appreciation and acknowledged the strides made by Cambodia on effective Covid-19 management, and implementing policy to quickly vaccinate as many people as possible as well as restart tourism and wider economic activity, according to the statement.

He underlined that Riyadh has set a 2030 vision to transform Saudi Arabia, as a member of the Group of 20 leading economies, into a major global tourism hub. Riyadh encourages Cambodians to visit the

country as well, he said.

Khon asked Riyadh to expedite the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on tourism cooperation between the two countries, noting that Phnom Penh sent a draft of the document to Saudi Arabia, but has yet to receive a response.

Al-Suwelim vowed to bring up the issue to Riyadh and push for the necessary work to be completed in the near future.

The minister also touched on the possibility of launching direct flights between the Kingdoms to enhance the bilateral flow of travellers as well as increase the number of visitors from other countries.

He suggested direct Riyadh-Phnom Penh flights or even multi-destination routes to a combination of Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap town.

The ambassador revealed that Saudi Arabia plans to set up a route in May from Riyadh to Phnom Penh via Bangkok, and that the Saudi tourism minister would be on the inaugural flight to Cambodia.