Luu Meng, co-chair of the government-private sector “B” working group on tourism, is optimistic that issues affecting the Cambodian tourism sector could be resolved in an upcoming high-level Royal Government-Private Sector Forum, which would be chaired by Prime Minister Hun Manet on November 13.

On September 19, working group B held a meeting at the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) to discuss prevailing issues in tourism and to call for a review and solutions, particularly by the Ministry of Tourism, prior to the forum.

It was chaired by Luu Meng and CCC director-general Nguon Meng Tech, and attended by representatives from the Cambodian Restaurant Association, Cambodian Tourism Federation, Cambodian Spa Association, Cambodian Hotel Association, Cambodian Chefs Association, Cambodian Tour Agency Association and other tourism players.

Speaking to The Post on September 20, Luu Meng said the meeting is important to document the challenges in the tourism sector and input by industry players, which would be submitted as a joint proposal to the ministry to review and find solutions.

“We hope that the common challenges affecting the private sector would be addressed by the government as the PM said recently that the private sector is an important partner in boosting economic growth,” he said, adding that since Covid-19, every country’s tourism sector has been severely affected, effects of which persist till today.

Angkor Tourist Guide Association president Khieu Thy said although concerns about the spread of Covid-19 worldwide have almost disappeared, tourist numbers in Cambodia are still small, especially foreign tourists. This has continued to have a profound effect on those in the tourism sector, both in terms of job opportunities and income.

“As such, the government’s assistance is very important at this stage, especially in reviving the flow of tourists. Tourism really needs a lot of help from the government right now,” Khieu said.

The forum, in its 18th installation, is held every year by the government but was postponed during the pandemic. It is a dialogue mechanism led by the Prime Minister and participated by all ministers and department heads, as well as officers from state institutions, provincial governors, ambassadors to Cambodia, and private sector and international institution representatives.

The forum offers a platform for the private sector to raise challenges and provide suggestions to the government to consider and take appropriate action to resolve. Decisions from the forum are viewed as that made by the Council of Ministers.

Meanwhile, data by the Ministry of Tourism showed that in 2019, Cambodia received the highest number of international visitors, at 6.6 million, up 6.6 percent from 2018. However, Covid-19 caused a sharp decline in international arrivals in 2020-2021.

Positive signs started to show in 2022, with Cambodia receiving nearly 2.3 million international visitors, an increase of 1,059 per cent compared to 2021. In particular, for the first seven months of 2023, Cambodia received nearly 3.04 million international visitors, an increase of 308.5 percent compared to the same period in 2022.