Cambodia and Indonesia have pledged to enhance tourism cooperation, and agreed on a five-pronged strategy to revive travel to either country as Covid-19 headwinds abate, according to the tourism ministry.

The commitment was made during a bilateral meeting between Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and his Indonesian counterpart Sandiaga Uno on September 27 – coinciding with the 42nd World Tourism Day – on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) Tourism Ministerial Meeting held in Bali, Indonesia from September 26-27, the ministry noted in a statement.

The first element of the strategy is to set up a joint working group to oversee the execution of a bilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) on tourism cooperation signed in January during the 40th ASEAN Tourism Forum in Sihanoukville.

The second is to pave the way for more direct flights between the two countries.

The third is to implement the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Tourism Professionals (MRA-TP) and promote relevant expertise exchange through study visits, workshops and similar activities. The MRA-TP was signed on November 9, 2012 by the tourism ministers of all 10 of the bloc’s member states.

Similarly, the fourth and fifth are, respectively, to foster experience sharing around: eco- and community-based tourism development as well as the planning and management of coastal areas; and tourism development and management specifically in Siem Reap.

Sandiaga spoke highly of Cambodia’s Covid-era achievements, and commended the Kingdom for actively pushing forward with its work as the rotating ASEAN chair for 2022, while Khon praised Indonesia for successfully hosting the G20 meeting as well as this year’s official World Tourism Day celebration, according to the statement.

The following day, Sandiaga tweeted in Indonesian: “I hope to be able to advance, develop and promote tourism flows between the two countries.

“Indonesia and Cambodia have similar archaeological legacies, with World Heritage Sites designated by UNESCO, including the Borobudur and Angkor Wat temples.

“Hopefully with the cooperation that has been established, Indonesia and Cambodia can further enhance human resource and national economic development, especially in the tourism sectors of both countries,” he said.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents adviser Ho Vandy contended that, due to Indonesia’s massive population and thriving economy, the post-Covid return of direct air routes with the sprawling archipelago nation would provide a major economic impetus for the Kingdom. Currently, all commercial flights between the two countries include a stopover, usually in Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand, he noted.

“Should flights resume, the number of Indonesian tourists to Cambodia will surely increase,” he said.

The tourism ministry reported that Cambodia tallied 998,272 international visitors in the first eight months of 2022, representing a 720 per cent rise on a yearly basis.

Indonesia accounted for a 3.92 per cent share, or 39,159 travellers, marking a 956.9 per cent year-on-year surge, and emerging as the fifth largest source market after Thailand, Vietnam, China and the US.