Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen, at the Closing Ceremony of the Tourism Conference to Review the Plan for the Rehabilitation and Promotion of Tourism in Cambodia during and after the Covid-19 Crisis, Phase 1 (2020-2021), and the First Semester of 2022. Setting the Directions of the Tourism Rehabilitation Plan in the Second Phase (Second Half of 2022-2023) [Unofficial Translation]

In addition to the prepared text, Samdech Techo Hun Sen made off-the-cuff speech that CNV unofficially transcribed and translated as followed:

(1) Tourism Affected by Wars and Sanctions in the World

Allow me to make additional assessments and offer reminders on some points. We already know that Covid-19 has had the biggest impact on tourism. Some agricultural and service industries have recovered, but tourism is in a slow rise. Now, a new problem – war and sanctions – has arisen that could further destroy tourism while creating the precarious state of a divided and indiscipline world. The problem is not only the war in Ukraine. The sanctions (on one anther) caused global market turmoil.

The continued warning from the IMF is not without reason. Global economic growth is likely to slow further. Inflation by countries is rising. This has to do with the livelihood of the people in the countries, especially the price of air tickets that cost double. That is the impact that can cause disruption to tourism. At this point, we can foresee what could have happened. If oil prices continue to rise, a global economic crisis could erupt, and at least tourism recovery could be difficult.

(2) Zero Covid-19 Policy Affects Transport and Tourist Flows

In addition, in the report, HE Thong Khon mentioned recently regarding the self-protection of the People’s Republic of China (in its practice of) zero Covid-19 policy. We know that many countries in the region, not only in Asia, but also in Europe, need Chinese tourists. China has the most number of tourists. China’s implementation of the zero Covid-19 measure affects transportation and travels. The biggest issue here is that the Chinese citizens would have traveled to other countries. (That they had to stay in the country) also for the China’s “zero Covid-19” policy affect those countries and Cambodia as well. However, we understand the need for China to protect its people and to prevent deaths in China. As HE Thong Khon predicted, “If China (excludes) the Covid-19 policy, tourism will increase to so and so number.” Well (we) use the word “if.” That is a matter for us to think about […] when that (if) does not happen to be true, the situation will still be the same.

(3) Rising Fuel Prices Makes It Difficult for Tourists to Travel

In addition, the high cost of air tickets makes it more difficult for tourists to travel from the United States, Europe or from other regions to Cambodia. In addition, I would like to emphasize that the current price of oil and coal is causing a loss to the Electricity du Cambodge (EDC). If EDC did not get the support from the Royal Government and opted to raise the price of electricity, hotels would be unable to do business. We needed to see the problems that are happening and facing in the future. We must continue to endure such hardships. We need to monitor and evaluate this situation on a regular basis.

(4) Build Infrastructure to Support Growth of Internal Tourism

We need to turn to domestic tourism as I recommended in the fifth point above. Internal tourism has made a significant contribution to the recovery phase as we implement new normal way of life measures to learn to live with Covid-19. We have about 300,000 local tourists a week, by which Cambodians have the opportunity to get to know their territory rather than go abroad. We should continue encourage it as it would give a major contribution to the conservation of our forest and animal resources.

Local community-based tourism is providing huge benefits for our people to visit and get our people involved in conserving the forest, conserving wildlife where they no longer hunt or do the logging. That (the community people) continue to benefit from tourism is better. However, we need to have the infrastructure to support the growth of our domestic tourism sector. These areas of support include road connectivity, access to new tourist destinations that need access to access to clean water, electricity and telephone services.

(5) In Covid-19 Era, Digital Access Helps the World to Communicate

Everyone sees that digital access has played an important role in the Covid-19 era. It is one of the fortunes of Cambodia (and) the world that digital is one-step ahead of the Covid-19. If (the online) communication had not taken place before Covid-19, the world would have been torn apart and could not have been assembled. With the advent of Covid-19, Cambodia’s information technology has taken a step forward. I can proudly say that at this Covid-19 stage, Cambodia is a country that has advanced through the promotion of use of technology […]

(6) Increase the Supply of Telephone and Internet Services to Tourist Destinations

At the same time, we are promoting digital access to the most part. Now our people use mobile phones to transfer money. In this case, do not forget to support this section. Not only to the countryside, but also strong services needed in cities […] all telephone and Internet companies need to strengthen in the city, and expand it to tourist destinations. In order to attract tourists to visit remote areas, it is necessary to have an internet support system, because they need to communicate. Sometimes they stay and sleep there, but they actually continue to work. Nowadays, they do not have meet in person. They meet by video call and talk to each other. They can even give signature (electronically) too.

(7) “3 Dos, 3 Don’ts” Measures and Vaccines to Ensure Safety

At this point, I would recommend that you consider further strengthening the promotion of domestic tourism, and that Cambodians do not lack money for hotel accommodation. Please do not confuse. Cambodians can now sleep in five-star, four-star, three-star hotels, not just foreigners […] on the other hand, we must continue to pay attention to Covid-19 […] we will not backtrack and resorting to locking down activities again. We have vaccinated the majority of the population. The resilience of our community is good, but we must not underestimate the infection possibility […]. The new omega variants are beginning to spread not only in Phnom Penh but also in the provinces, where we must be more vigilant, and continue to take precautionary measures – “3 Dos and 4 Don’ts” to protect ourselves by wearing masks, washing our hands, and keeping safe distance. Of course, infections are not serious compared to the ones before […] we have not noticed any serious cases because we have already immunized our people with vaccines. The concern here is those who have not received the booster dose when their antibodies are no longer string enough to protect them. The World Health Organization could not at this point accurately predict the development of this type of disease. Prevention is better than cure. We need to continue to pay attention to ensure the safety of our people, including the safety of tourism, both foreign and domestic tourists. This is a big problem and our tourism sector may or may not rise depend on many factors […]

(8) Find Ways to Communicate and Open for Tourism by Land, Sea and Air

There has many factors involved to redevelop international tourism. For domestic tourism, our main factor relates to COVID-19. If COVID-19 continues to spread, we will definitely reduce (the number of participants) as in that place, to implement keeping distance. In my opinion, my guess is that we are not going backwards. We move on. It is good for our people that even after we declared wearing a mask was no longer an obligation, they continue to wear it. It is a good thing to protect themselves. The concern is more people needed to get the booster jabs. We now lack more than 4 million people, almost 5 million of whom have not yet received the third dose, while some are already receiving the fourth and fifth doses […]

For international tourists, it depends on many external factors, the global economic crisis or at least the inflation caused by economic crisis. This issue started from war to punishment/sanction. War and sanctions combined pose a risk to global economic problems that plague us. The situation is very difficult to predict now. The world is in disarray, the world is falling apart. We have no way of knowing to where it would lead us. Nuclear war is possible or World War III is possible. This stage is not over yet. They are still threatening each other. We needed to see and be prepared for in order to gain autonomy in our country.

In the event that China promotes the recovery and withdrawal of the Zero COVID-19 policy, we believe that a large number of (Chinese) tourists will come to Cambodia […] Now China has also increased the number of flights with Cambodia considerably compared to the previous period. We have flight connections with Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and countries in the region, and Vietnam. Now, tourism is dependent on land tourism with Vietnam, with Thailand […] where our Cambodian people go to Vietnam, to Thailand, from Vietnam, to Cambodia from Thailand also came to Cambodia in some way, from Laos to Cambodia, from Cambodia to Laos. We need to push for all possible ways of connecting flights as well as opening up tourism by land, sea and air./.