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GMS countries mull welcoming vaccinated visitors

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World famous Angkor Archaeological Park awaiting tourists as Cambodia mulls opening its door to fully-vaccinated foreign tourists. Apsara National Authority

GMS countries mull welcoming vaccinated visitors

Five of the six Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries – Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam – are willing to welcome tourists fully-vaccinated against Covid-19 to their shores amid the pandemic, in an effort to kick-start a recovery in the tourism market dampened by Covid-19.

The commitment was conveyed on May 27 during the 47th meeting of the tourism working group, comprised of representatives of GMS countries and Metro Manila-based Asian Development Bank. Myanmar seemingly took no part in the meeting.

At the meeting, Ministry of Tourism director-general for Tourism Development and International Cooperation Sieng Neak shared Cambodia’s key strategies, as outlined in the 2021-2025 three-phased national tourism roadmap – approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 1, and ministerial plans to allow fully-vaccinated international tourists to enter the Kingdom with little or no quarantine stay.

“The meeting has agreed upon the draft of the Mekong Tourism Communication Recovery Plan to produce the right messages about tourism and select the right channels in order to promote tourism in the subregion to the right market,” he said later that day.

Neak also presented an update on tourism infrastructure and management capacity in coastal areas in Cambodia’s southwest, stressing that all work is being carried out in line with ASEAN tourism standards.

Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association president Khieu Thy told The Post that reopening the Kingdom to foreign tourists would be a dream for the tourism industry.

Suffering a dearth of international visitors for well over a year, Thy pointed out that the tourism sector also faces an unprecedented shortage of professionals and skilled tradespeople.

"If Cambodia were to reopen to foreign tourists in the fourth quarter, that'd likely restore jobs and income for those working in the sector," he said.

A tourism ministry report revealed that 1,306,143 international tourists visited Cambodia last year, down 80.2 per cent from 6,610,592 in 2019.

Last year’s decline in international tourist arrivals cost the Cambodian tourism industry more than $3 billion lost in revenue, with revenues from international tourism generating only $1.023 billion in 2020, down 79.2 per cent compared to $4.919 billion in 2019.

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