The Ministry of Tourism on March 15 virtually held a first meeting with Phnom Penh’s main safe-tourism management team, which has been tasked with compiling a report on attractions and establishments in the capital that comply with recognised health and hygiene standardised protocols, and ensure that visitors are and feel safe.
According to the ministry, the “Executive Working Group for the Evaluation and Management of Phnom Penh Safe Tourism Destinations” and its Siem Reap provincial counterpart were established this year, under the “Public Private Working Group for the Rehabilitation and Promotion of Cambodian Tourism Sector during and post-Covid-19”, which was set up in July, with minister Thong Khon as its chairman.
And Preah Sihanouk will be the next province to have an executive safe-tourism management working group, according to Chhun Makara, director of the ministry’s Travel Agency, Transport and Tourism Guide Department.
As the chairman of the Phnom Penh team – ministry secretary of state Chea Bora – underscored at the meeting, the public-private working group is in charge of and responsible for leading, managing and monitoring the implementation of the roadmap for the rehabilitation and promotion of the Cambodian tourism sector during and after the pandemic.
Bora said that the working group’s predominant aim is to reinvigorate the Covid-ravaged tourism industry, which he said used to be a major driver of economic growth.
He added that his team would set out a number of work plans, one of which concerns the “continuation and further support for work on evaluating the international tourism markets that should be absorbed at this point in time”.
But the job may be a tough one, Bora admits, as the tourism market today “is fiercely competitive and narrowing”.
Other work plans involve “continuous cooperation” with the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), Immigration and other relevant parties, as well as “strengthening the implementation of tourism safety rules and the Minimum Standard Operating Procedures for tourism businesses”, he added.
Phnom Penh Municipal Hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey affirmed to The Post on March 16 that the capital’s authorities have drawn up a range of legal measures and standards to prevent the spread of Covid-19, in line with instructions from the tourism and health ministries.
Meas Pheakdey said the adoption of the associated security measures was largely aimed at businesses and attractions geared towards tourists.
He said municipal governor Khuong Sreng “often reminds” officials in Phnom Penh’s 14 districts to conduct inspections, in collaboration with the capital’s tourism department, to ensure that safe tourism standards are met.
The spokesman affirmed that most businesses have indeed been found to be in compliance, albeit with a couple of hiccups here and there, and that the authorities are keeping tabs on the Covid situation and working to prevent another major outbreak.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents adviser Ho Vandy claimed that before the Covid era, Phnom Penh attracted 50-60 per cent of international visitors to the Kingdom, saying that the capital is “the heart of Cambodia”.
“Two years of experience with the Covid-19 context: I understand that all sectors have grown accustomed to the presence of the disease, and that everyone is starting to learn to live with it.
“However, in order to reopen to international tourists and achieve the plans that have been set out, Covid-19 restrictions must be lifted, which means cutting down the number of days required for quarantine and testing for the novel coronavirus, among other things.
“But hopes for Cambodia’s tourism sector lie in the implementation of the ‘three don’ts and three protections’ guidelines,” he said.
The “three protections” – also called the “three do’s” – are to wear a face mask, wash hands frequently, and keep a safe distance from other people (usually defined as 1.5m), and the “three don’ts” are to avoid confined and enclosed spaces, stay away from crowded places, and refrain from touching others.
The tourism ministry reported that holidaymakers made 253,876 domestic trips nationwide at the weekend, on March 12-13, up 27.30 per cent week-on-week – 28,419 of which were to Phnom Penh.
Cambodians accounted for 242,188 or 95.40 per cent (up 28.59 per cent week-on-week), and foreign residents represented 11,688 or 4.60 per cent (up 5.38 per cent week-on-week).