France and Iran have expressed their desire to connect flights with Cambodia and increase tourism cooperation with the Kingdom in other fields, in the hopes of bringing its travel industry back to pre-pandemic heights.
The two countries’ interests were expressed during separate meetings between their diplomats and Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon on February 21, where they expressed their commitment to promote increased cooperation with the Kingdom in the sector.
Pellet Jacques, the newly-minted French ambassador, said: “We support the Royal Government of Cambodia in establishing this tourism cooperation to set an example for other member countries. It is a contribution for the benefit of progress [on all sides], especially on behalf of Cambodia as the ASEAN chair.”
Khon proposed increasing the number of direct flights between France and Cambodia to boost tourist arrivals.
He laid out plans to meet with French tour operators and find more ways to “restore and enhance” tourism to Cambodia. He also highlighted the high number of French traders currently in the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Cambodia stands ready to attract Muslim tourists, having launched a bevy of Islam-friendly strategies designed to encourage investment and tourism, Khon said.
He asked his Iranian counterparts to assist in studying an upcoming direct Cambodia-Iran flight connection. Both sides also examined the possibility of multi-stop flights that would connect Iran to Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia, before subsequently stopping in Cambodia.
And Iranian ambassador to Cambodia Ali Akbar Nazari gave the green light for the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on tourism cooperation between the two countries that had been proposed by the Kingdom.
“Both sides will arrange for the signing of the MoU on the tourism sector, and at the same time a memorandum on sports, with the signing ceremony taking place in Iran,” he said.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin told The Post that the meeting between the tourism minister and the French ambassador could help boost the Kingdom’s sluggish tourism sector which she said relies heavily on the French.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Cambodia annually received around 200,000 tourists from the European country, she said.
“The French people have known, and have a long shared history with Cambodia – things would look a lot brighter with the emergence of more cooperation,” she added.
Meanwhile, Sivlin said that upcoming events like the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, to be held in May 2023, will boost Cambodia’s profile amongst potential tourists from countries such as Iran.
“I expect that through the promotion of the SEA Games that Cambodia will host, the Iranian people will get a better taste of the Kingdom,” she said.
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan echoed Sivlin’s views, saying that Cambodia’s increased tourism cooperation, especially with France, is a good sign for the Kingdom’s tourism industry which has historically benefitted from strong French representation.
“Historically, a great deal of holidaymakers had been from France, and every season, the French would always help prop up Cambodian tourism – back then relations between Cambodia and France were intimately close,” Sinan lamented.