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Rescue in sight for Cambodian tourism

Plan to reopen seen as lifeline for operators hit by pandemic

Cambodia’s move to set the stage for a reopening of the country’s borders is lifting the spirits of operators in the battered tourism industry.

The country is drawing up a four-pronged strategy to gradually restore domestic and international tourism, The Phnom Penh Post newspaper reported on Thursday, citing Prime Minister Hun Sen.

That development has put a smile on the face of tourism operator Boret Ream, who, like other business owners, has been hit brutally by the pandemic.

“The government announcement comes to us like the brightness lying in the midst of darkness … this is really great news to us,” said the founder and director of Journey Cambodia, a travel agency in the tourism hot spot of Siem Reap.

Contained in the government’s strategy is a plan to ramp up vaccination rates, foster cooperation leading to more diversified tourism services and capacity building in the industry, and increased training for young workers. There will also be greater emphasis on safety under a campaign called Safe Cambodia, which is aimed at encouraging domestic tourism.

On Sept 17, the prime minister said the country could soon reopen its doors to fully vaccinated foreign tourists.

Ream suspects the big tourism companies will be the first to benefit from the reopening of the industry in the early stages of the government’s plan. But he expressed confidence that smaller businesses will be able to share in the gains once the strategy is proved to be feasible and safe.

Chheang Vannarith, president of the Asian Vision Institute think tank in Phnom Penh, said Cambodia’s reopening plan could be “a gradual and incremental process”.

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