Optimism after eased tourism controls, but sector eager for more

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From January-July, Cambodia received 112,544 international visitors, marking a steep decline of 90.6 per cent year-on-year, according to the tourism ministry.​ YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

The recent cautious relaxations in Cambodia’s visa, travel and quarantine rules have been a welcome breath of fresh air for the beleaguered tourism sector, but may not go far enough to create the positive momentum needed to drive the transformative change desired, industry stakeholders told The Post on October 24.

The Ministry of Health on October 16 issued Notification No 453 on revised health rules, quarantine requirements and other travel conditions. General fully-vaccinated inbound passengers must now undergo quarantine for seven days, whereas investors, technical experts, among others – with a guarantor or invitation letter – are required to isolate for just three days.

 

And in an October 20 letter addressed to foreign Cambodian missions, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn outlined the resumption of tourist visas and e-visa applications, and the reinstatement of the visa exemption policy, but noted that visas on arrival would remain suspended.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin told The Post on October 24 that the resumption of granting certain types of visas would encourage travellers and investors to book trips to the Kingdom, providing a much-needed stimulus to the tourism sector after the nearly two-year-long crippling Covid ordeal.

She affirmed that the government does not provide visas on arrival, cautioning would-be travellers to Cambodia to apply beforehand at embassies or the e-visa platform.

Sivlin argued that these prior applications indicate travellers’ specific interest in Cambodia and are a form of recognition. “And this is a good sign of the revival of our tourism industry.”

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan said the private sector is “pleased” that the government followed through on long-brewing proposals by the business community to simplify the procedures and conditions for issuing visas for tourists.

But this rule-easing may fall short of desirable results, Sinan suggested, contending that the potentially disproportionate health measures and the three- or seven-day quarantine may be off-putting to tourists.

 

He believes that one possible option in the near-term would be to allow travellers entering Cambodia through Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk provinces to stay for five days in the corresponding locality, and have them undergo free Covid-19 PCR tests before being permitted travel to other provinces.

However he called on the government to embrace the inevitability of the resumption of economic activity and move toward a wider reopening to travellers and investors so that the tourism industry can achieve further growth.

Still, Sinan concurred that the relaxation of measures does provide a boon for investors with prior engagements in Cambodia.

Preah Sihanouk provincial Department of Tourism director Taing Sochet Kresna welcomed the revisions in the visa, travel and quarantine rules, saying the changes would create jobs, increase national income and spur socio-economic development.

However, he called for the effective implementation of health measures, with the participation of the private sector, to ensure that the economy, society and tourism run smoothly and with minimal risk of a new outbreak of the novel coronavirus.