The private sector has welcomed the government’s new initiative to waive fines for expired tour guide licenses and interpreter permits. The initiative is anticipated to significantly motivate tour guides and interpreters to re-engage in their professions.

The Ministry of Tourism announced the exemption of penalties for lapsed licenses on November 14, in a move aimed at encouraging professionals in these fields to contribute to the rehabilitation and promotion of tourism following the Covid-19 crisis.

The waiver applies to all levels of tour guide licenses and interpreter permits, effective until March 31, 2024.

“Tour guides and interpreters with expired licenses and permits must promptly apply for [their renewal] at the capital and provincial tourism departments”, the ministry’s notice stated. 

The announcement regarding the waiver followed Prime Minister Hun Manet’s statement at the 19th Government-Private Sector Forum (G-PSF) on November 13, declaring that the government would grant an exemption during the transitional period, extending the deadline to the end of March 2024.

Khieu Thy, president of the Khmer Angkor Tourist Guide Association (KATGA), noted that the Covid-19 crisis over the past three years compelled many tourism professionals, including tour guides and interpreters, to switch to other careers, leading to the expiry of their credentials.

He stated that the release from penalties would encourage former workers to return to the industry. 

“The exemption of transaction fines … is beneficial, as the number of foreign tourists has increased compared to a few years ago, particularly with the opening of the Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (SAI). However, the revenue currently generated is still significantly lower than what was received [pre-pandemic,” he said.

Thourn Sinan, chairman of both IMCT Co Ltd and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia Chapter, praised the government’s decision. He stated that the waiver would assist operators in the sector to better serve the industry, which is showing signs of gradual recovery.

“I welcome the government’s move, especially for tax exemptions to ease the burden on stakeholders who are operating in the sector. This also helps to promote and enhance the sector, which seems to be gaining momentum in recent times,” he said.

The ministry reported that in the first nine months of 2023, the country welcomed over 3.92 million foreign visitors. This represents a 210.2% increase compared to the same period in 2022. Of these visitors, 2.72 million came from Thailand, Vietnam, China and Laos, making up 69.44% of the total.

In 2019, Cambodia experienced its highest influx of international visitors, with a total of 6.61 million, marking a 6.6% increase from 2018. Among these, 3.97 million visitors were from Thailand, Vietnam, China and Laos, accounting for 60.06% of the total number of foreign visitors, as per the ministry.