Prime Minister Hun Sen is encouraging the development of rural tourism to promote new tourism products, rural skills and create jobs because the sector is currently seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The premier’s call was made on World Tourism Day yesterday under the topic of Tourism and Rural development.
He said the government has noted that COVID-19 has changed the concept of tourism in that people are visiting more rural-based communities and ecology sites.
The prime minister said as much of the world faces the challenge of people leaving the countryside to move to cities, causing agriculture and other local supportive economies to suffer labour and skills shortages, rural tourism development will contribute to reduced migration and create more jobs.
“The government thanks all parties for supporting the Ministry of Tourism in promoting the local tourism movement during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that more than 1.5 million visitors, both local and foreigners who live here, visited the country’s tourism destinations nationwide during the Khmer New Year substitute days and spent $100 million.
“In order for tourism to become a more effective driver to diversify the economy and to support other sectors in rural areas, the government calls on stakeholders to increase skills development and education as key to the development of rural tourism.”
Mr Hun Sen said these require the private state and other stakeholders to contribute to the development and training of entrepreneurship in tourism skills for local people who are tourism-service providers, focusing on creating and promoting new products in the digital-tourism context. “Authorities must identify tourism as a strategic pillar for rural development, with specific development plans in line with the potential of each region, with the participation of local communities in the form of public-private-people-partnerships,” he said.
Thoun Sinan, president of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said that this is the concept of Asia tourism and the issue has been raised by the private sector to diversify tourism products.
“As a private sector organisation, we have consulted with the government about diversifying tourism sector products, which we call eco-tourism, but it is not enough and what the prime minister raises may refer to agri-tourism,” he said. “It is not only a benefit in attracting visitors but it also provides potential for agricultural product sales, increased local revenue and the creation of more jobs in rural areas.”
However, he said lack of infrastructure remains a worrying issue for developing sectors in Cambodia.
“For local people it would be OK but, to attract more foreigners, the infrastructure needs to be improved,” he added.
The World Bank said in its report on Enabling Ecotourism Development in Cambodia, that the government’s strategy to develop the country’s eco-tourism sector
has not provided comprehensive guidance about it.
The report said planning for ecotourism-related infrastructure development must be conducted with care and consideration for the environment.
“Insufficient transport infrastructure and weak services hinder sustainable tourism development because many secondary destinations are unable to attract private investment in quality tourist service infrastructure,” it said.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, the Kingdom’s tourism sector will lose $5 billion in revenue in 2020 because of COVID-19.
The Cambodia tourism sector was earning about $6 billion a year from domestic and international travel. In 2019, eco-tourism accounted for 16 percent of the total number of tourists. The number doubled between 2014 and 2019, the World Bank said.
This article was first published in Khmer Times. All contents and images are copyright to their respective owners and sources.