The speed of the government’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign will provide significant opportunities for Cambodia to welcome back fully-vaccinated international visitors, as the Kingdom gears up to host the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) on January 16-22, Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (Cata) president Chhay Sivlin affirmed.
The government has been rapidly accelerating coronavirus vaccination drives nationwide, she told The Post, noting that Cambodia now ranks second in ASEAN – after Singapore – for the number of vaccinations provided for every 100 people.
She maintained that it was entirely feasible to reopen tourism before the ATF kicks off early next year, or possibly even as early as October-November.
“So why don’t we reopen before this event to see lively activity in the lead-up to this event, for [holidaymakers from other] countries to visit Cambodia?”
She argued that the ministries conditions already lean on the cautious side and are well-managed to ensure safety – only fully-vaccinated tourists are accepted and only through tour packages from travel agencies.
“We, the private sector, are also highly committed to help guide tourists as much as possible until they leave Cambodia, so we think there will be no problems arising from the destinations set by the agency – safety first.
“We believe that the reopening of receiving tourist will help restore tourism as soon as possible, we can no longer procrastinate. All businesses have been idling around for almost two years, making it very cumbersome for them to recover,” Sivlin said.
She proposed Cambodia be quick to announce a tourism reopening, to give European tourists time to plan their trips, saying she believes Cambodia would be among the destination for a sizeable portion.
“This presents an opportunity for Cambodia to become a major tourist destination, without relying on neighbouring countries, especially Thailand,” she said.
“Historically, Cambodia has just been a tacked-on tourist destination.”
Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on September 1 that his ministry “has been working hard on this arrangement, which may materialise by the end of this year, maybe November-December.
“But the exact timeframe for once again opening up to receive tourists in any capacity cannot be confirmed in detail, please hang on a little longer.”
Sivlin added that a continued delay in the reopening would only extend the time Cambodia needs to prepare for the international tourists.
She underscored that tour operators and tourism-guided businesses require ample time to recruit and train staff after the Covid-19 crisis put a significant share of the workforce out of a job and out of practice.
With many other countries making inroads towards reopening tourism, the Kingdom cannot afford to wait any longer, Sivlin reiterated.
“If we do not seize this opportunity, we will not have another.”