Cambodia and Thailand have agreed on an 11-point 2023-2025 joint action plan for tourism cooperation as the sector emerges into a post-Covid-19 reality, after the former registered an on-year jump of 157.1 per cent in visitors from the latter over the first half of 2022, according to the tourism ministry.

During the January-June period, visitors to Cambodia from Thailand numbered 134,432, or equivalent to 26.53 per cent of all international travellers, at 506,762, which was up by 394.1 per cent year-on-year, Ministry of Tourism figures revealed.

According to a ministry statement, the plan was agreed at the sixth meeting of a joint working group on bilateral tourism cooperation held in Koh Kong province on September 2. The working group comprises officials from both countries’ tourism ministries.

The meeting was co-chaired by ministry undersecretary of state Thok Sokhom and Mongkon Wimonrat, assistant permanent secretary at the Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports.

The plan covers: 1) cross-border joint tourism packages tailored to encourage travel between the two countries; 2) direct flights between all top tourist destinations; and 3) specialty tourism markets that focus on, among other themes, food, health, Buddhism, cruises, or cross-border “self-driving tours” from either side of the frontier.

Also included are: 4) private sector market research and collaboration under the “Two Kingdoms, One Destination” framework; 5) cruise ships that are to dock at Kampot International Tourism Port – a 4ha quay in Teuk Chhou district about 6km southeast of Kampot town; and 6) tourism expert visits between the two countries under the ASEAN MRA-TP (Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Tourism Professionals) framework.

Additionally, there are: 7) tourism and hospitality skills training for Cambodian workers in Thailand; 8) tourism investment forums and FAM (familiarisation) trips for private sector actors; and 9) promotion for the 2023 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and ASEAN Para Games slated to be held in Cambodia next year.

The last two items are: 10) Thai experience-sharing on the Tourism Satellite Account – an internationally accepted statistical framework used to estimate the economic value of tourism to an economy; and 11) the establishment of an ACMECS (Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy) Tourism Secretariat, as proposed by Cambodia, to promote tourism cooperation among the five ACMECS nations – Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter chairman Thourn Sinan believes that the agreement will not only help the Cambodian tourism sector recover from the more than two-year Covid-induced lull, but also significantly facilitate trade and health-related travel.

Speaking to The Post on September 4, Sinan commented that their large influxes of visitors each year and long lists of available direct-flight destinations position Thailand and Vietnam as key tourism gateways for Cambodia, via air, land and sea. He called for special attention to Vietnam as well.

Try Chhiv, director of the ministry’s Department of International Cooperation and ASEAN, affirmed in the statement that Cambodia and Thailand have constantly shared information, experiences and solutions to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and address the Covid-19 crisis’ toll on tourism.

Chhiv said Thailand praised the Cambodian government for putting in place effective measures to fight Covid-19, in particular the rollout of nationwide vaccination campaigns that eventually enabled the resumption of socio-economic activity.

He said both sides will meet for further talks on the plan in the coming weeks in Siem Reap province, as well as at the ministerial meeting under ACMECS scheduled for November 1-5, also in Siem Reap.

Chhiv added that both sides hailed the enforcement of a previous joint action plan for tourism cooperation over 2019-2021 – even as the global economy was battered by Covid – which he noted was approved at the 2nd Meeting of Cambodia-Thailand Tourism Ministers held in Kampot province on October 17, 2018.

For reference, the formal English name of the September 2, 2022 gathering is “The 6th Meeting of Joint Working Group between the Ministry of Tourism of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of the Kingdom of Thailand on Bilateral Tourism Cooperation”.