The Ministry of Tourism released its annual report yesterday during its yearly meeting, showing growth continued for the sector in 2016, while launching a campaign to eliminate unlicensed tourist establishments that ministry officials claim slowed revenue collection last year.
International tourism arrivals increased by 5 percent to surpass the 5 million mark in 2016, according to the report. However, total tourism revenue was down from the $3.5 billion recorded in 2015, amounting to $3 billion, or 13 percent of GDP.
Tourism business registrations increased by 5 percent while revenue from tourism licences inched up just 1 percent, the report showed.
By the end of 2016, there were 647 hotels, 1,996 guesthouses, 1,844 restaurants, 588 tourist agencies and 5,088 guides registered in the Kingdom, according to the figures.
During the meeting, Thong Khon, minister of tourism, unveiled a new campaign to improve regulation of the industry, consisting of a seven-step plan that starts with enhancing the management of business licences and strengthening revenue collection.
Improving the quality of tourism services was the second step, followed by better management of industry standards in the tourism sector, particularly related to promoting the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) strategy, which involves promoting tourism for large organised groups.
Kim Sereiroath, director of the Ministry of Tourism’s industry department, said the ministry would cooperate with the private sector during the campaign to eliminate non-licensed businesses by 2018.
This will strengthen revenue from tourism licences and add to the efforts of the ministry’s “one service, one standard” target, he added.
“All the measures that are set out in the campaign are in response to weaknesses and challenges we have found in the industry,” he said.
“We hope to make progress on each of the steps and reach the targets of the campaign by 2020.”
The Ministry of Tourism is targeting 7 million international tourist arrivals by that time, he added.
Further steps listed in the campaign include issuing individual QR codes to tourist guides to better assess and guarantee the quality of their services, and improving the management of government funding for the industry, Sereiroath said.
Ang Kim Eang, general manager of Great Angkor Tours, said he welcomed the ministry’s efforts to eliminate unlicensed businesses as this would help maintain the quality of services in the tourism sector. He urged officials to also crack down on non-licensed online tourism agencies.
“This is what we have been waiting to hear from the Ministry of Tourism for a while,” he said.
“Unlicensed tourism businesses not only impact the legitimate companies but also affect the reputation of the entire sector while decreasing revenue from tax payments.”