The Ministry of Tourism and state-owned Khmer Enterprise (KE) have kicked off a new project to empower tourism communities to develop, maintain and expand their own tourism services and other businesses, the ministry said in a statement.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed to this end at the ministry by ministry director-general for Tourism Development and International Cooperation Thong Rathasak and KE CEO Chhieng Vanmunin on August 27, at a ceremony chaired by Minister of Tourism Thong Khon.

KE is an implementation unit of the Entrepreneurship Development Fund (EDF) established by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

And the project is entitled “Enhancing Internal Tourism and Promoting Tourism Activities in the Communities in the Covid-19’s Norm”, images taken at the event show.

Rathasak said five tourism communities have been selected in the first phase of the project, to be trained in financial management and relevant recognised standards.

Two communities are based in Siem Reap province – the Teuk Chub Khnar Por Ecotourism Community in Sotr Nikum district and Changkran Roy Tourism Community in Varin district.

The others are O’Choam Waterfall Tourism Community in Battambang province’s Samlot district, Reang Khvav Tourism Community in Pursat province’s Phnom Kravanh district, and Sre Ampil Tourism Community in Kampong Chhnang province’s Teuk Phos district.

“These communities all have unique, special areas of tourism potential, and their members are working hard to reinvent them. The communities merely had yet to receive any firm backing from other ministries and institutions.

“Nonetheless, these five tourism communities are also the most suitable for receiving tourists in the context of the Covid-19 crisis,” the ministry quoted Rathasak as saying.

The MoU establishes a vital partnership to spur domestic tourism before the upcoming reopening of international tourism, he asserted, adding that the national Covid-19 vaccination campaign is faring well, including the subsequent booster drive.

He added: “The Ministry of Tourism will accommodate development of these communities by focusing training on the observance of tourism safety and health rules during and post-Covid-19.

“Training will also hone in on food standards, farm trips for local and international guests, and other forms of direct guidance.”

The tourism ministry added that through the MoU, KE will financially support the communities and provide the technical training required to create and expand businesses, and further the careers of members.

It underlined that KE has an extensive network of development partners to lend a hand in the project.

Vanmunin noted in the statement that the financial resources at KE’s disposal are entirely from loans made by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

KE is keen to work with the tourism ministry on the project and enhance the allure of the Kingdom’s tourism communities for holidaymakers from all walks of life, and improve the economic fortunes of their members, he said.

He affirmed that the ministry has clear tourism community development and hospitality training standards.

“Not content with merely abetting regular tourism services, KE wants these communities to know how to create new businesses for the sake of their families and expand existing ones.

“There’ll be loads of tourists visiting, and the communities will have the opportunity to sell their goods or services to travellers and earn extra income to support daily living,” Vanmunin said.

He said KE wants to transform the five communities into prominent examples for others to follow and potentially scale up operations.

“These communities will not only be welcoming tourists, but expanding businesses, drawing high-profile visitors, and attracting investment to boot.

“With clear income and expenditure management systems and accountability structures in place, as well as solid business models, KE will be more motivated to continue lending a hand in adapting those business models,” he said.