Cambodia is gearing up to host the 40th ASEAN Tourism Forum 2022 (ATF 2022) in two weeks, with preparations reportedly 90 per cent complete.
The private sector expects the forum to be a consequential opportunity for Cambodia to promote its tourism potential and allure more investors and international tourists, after a nearly two-year lull due to the Covid-19 crisis.
ATF 2022 is scheduled for January 16-22 in Sihanoukville, Preah Sihanouk province, with ASEAN tourism ministers and other senior officials due to attend. The forum will also feature a Tourism Expo, TRAVEX, with about 187 booths, according to plans.
The 39th iteration of the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) was held in 2020, in Brunei.
During a meeting-cum-inspection of the venues for the forum on January 2, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said that with strong support from the bloc, ASEAN Plus parties and regional private sector, the number of registrations and confirmations for the event has “exceeded expectations”, despite the lingering threat of Covid.
He instructed the pertinent working groups to cooperate with the relevant provincial authorities to ensure the safe organisation of the associated meetings and activities, in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s standard operating procedure (SOP) and provincial administration’s SOP for tourist destinations.
“This forum is very important in helping to increase the attractiveness of tourism for the ASEAN region, especially for the host country, Cambodia.
“The ASEAN tourism ministers will also take this opportunity to announce the reopening of regional tourism,” he said, noting that ATF 2022 would only be attended by nine tourism ministers – all from ASEAN – and that Nguyen Van Hung from Vietnam would be represented by a deputy.
Key meetings are scheduled for ATF 2022, including those of the National Tourism Organisations, ASEAN tourism ministers, ASEAN Plus Three (with Japan, South Korea and China), ASEAN Plus One (with India), ASEAN-Russia, relevant partners, and private sector representatives (such as the ASEAN Tourism Association), he added.
Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun said the provincial administration was ready to welcome all delegates and instructed the relevant authorities to ensure the safety of the delegates.
“The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration will support the organisation of this event in a responsible manner,” he said, suggesting that booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines be given to everyone involved in the forum’s preparations.
Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan told The Post on January 4 that the ATF is the region’s largest tourism trade event, and is held annually – except in 2021 due to Covid – and is attended by ASEAN ministers.
“This forum will bring more benefits and opportunities to attract more tourists to Cambodia as well as the entire ASEAN region. This could also … usher in a new era, with the resumption of tourism history after being frozen for nearly two years due to the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.
Cambodia is set to become the first country to host the event in the Covid era, as more than 14.2 million people in the Kingdom aged five and over have received at least a first shot of a coronavirus jab, or 89.18 per cent of the estimated 16 million population, as reported by the Ministry of Health on January 3.
Its relatively high vaccination rates are widely regarded as a confidence boost for travellers and investors to take a trip to the Kingdom.
In January-November, Cambodia received 163,266 foreign tourists, down by 87.3 per cent year-on-year compared to 1,286,074 in the same period in 2020, according to the tourism ministry.