Sunday, August 2, 2009

Address at the Closing of the 2008 Tourism Stocktaking Conference

Address at the Closing of the 2008 Tourism Stocktaking Conference in the 1st Semester of 2009, and Direction Setting for the 2nd Semester of 2009 and 2010

Chaktomuk Conference Hall, July 30, 2009

- Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

- Dear all participants!

Today it is my great honor and pleasure to be here in the closing of the 2008 Tourism Stocktaking Conference in the 1st Semester of 2009, and Direction Setting for the 2nd Semester of 2009 and 2010.

Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Tourism on its remarkable achievements, especially in spite of the impact of the global financial crisis, political instability in some neighboring countries, and the outbreak of swine flue H1N1 on Cambodia’s tourism sector. All tourism achievements reflect the successful implementation of the Royal Government’s Rectangular Strategy – Phase II.

Tourism has been a growth pillar for Cambodia for years. Due to the global financial crisis, our tourism sector stagnated during late 2008 and in the first half of 2009. However, the Royal Government is determined to boost this sector in the short term, medium term and long term by ensuring peace, political stability, social order, tourists’ safety, further construction of physical infrastructure, improvement of legal framework and institutional capacity, human resource development and diversification of tourism market and so forth. To strengthen tourism sector in the wake of the global financial crisis, I have recently instructed the Steering Committee for Private Sector Development to exchange dialogues with the private sector and relevant development partners to monitor Cambodia’s tourism situation and propose practical recommendations to address the current challenges.

I have also appealed to the private sector to create more attractive tour packages with reduced accommodation costs and free packages of extra services. In this spirit, in addition to the Royal Government’s effort to create an environment conducive to the growth in tourism sector, we expect the private sector to do its utmost to improve its own competing ability, and efficiency and quality of its tour services. I have also appealed to those employed in the tourism sector to work together to improve the quality of tour services, a pre-requisite not only for the growth of tourism sector but also to mitigate the impact of global financial crisis in the short term.

I am pleased with and appreciative with the performance of the Ministry of Tourism, relevant institutions and the private sector that have collaborated closely to take measures to mitigate the impact of the global financial crisis on Cambodia’s tourism sector. In spite of limited success, this indicates our committed responsibility and joint determination. I strongly support the publishing of the stocktaking report, discussion and contribution from all participants for addressing the challenges during this difficult period to realize the Royal Government’s strategic objectives.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to raise some recommendations for the implementation of tourism sector development strategy as follows:

1. Promotion and Market: The Ministry of Tourism and the private sector must cooperate closely to promote tourism industry both domestically and internationally through all means, especially those markets in ASEAN, ASEAN plus 3, plus India and some emerging markets such as Russia and the Middle East while maintaining our existing markets. We also have to organize more tourism events as well as cultural and sport events to attract more tourists.

Adding to the reduced service charge in order to provide discount tour packages and international promotion, we need to ensure the comprehensive and far-reaching tourism promotion by encouraging domestic tourist movement and linking this to the campaign of “Cambodia – Kingdom of Wonder” and “Clean City, Clean Resort and Good Services” movement.

At the same time, we must make advertisement through the homepage of the Ministry of Tourism, Cambodian embassies, consulate general and consulate centers in foreign countries by linking it to all homepages of other state and private ministries/institutions and civil societies in conformity to the concept of “All for tourism and tourism for all”. Furthermore, the Ministry of Tourism must immediately establish and put into operation tourism information centers in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap city, Sihaknouk Province and at other key tourism sites such as the historic cultural sites, the South-west eco-tourism and the North-east eco-tourism sites and those areas surrounding the Tonle Sap lake. Moreover, the Ministry of Tourism must cooperate with the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art, institution concerned and the private sector to organize events, especially to advertise about Khmer civilization and culture during various occasions and functions at resorts, hotels and restaurants.

I would like our embassies in foreign countries, especially in key international markets, to make more efforts to promote tourism advertising activities. The Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Foreign Affair and International Cooperation must effectively work together.

2. Visa Issue: So far we have exempted visa for 5 ASEAN member countries from which about 400,000 tourists came in 2008, which is equivalent to around USD 8millions of loss revenue if visa fees are to be applied. However, the Royal Government understands clearly about the benefit of visa’s revenues and those revenues derived from tourists’ expenditure in the country, which generate numerous numbers of employment for the citizen.

The government will continuously consider promoting visa exemption with the first country in ASEAN market. I agreed with the initiative that we should issues visa free of charge for a limited period during crisis time. At the same time, I would like to encourage the implementation of Single Visa policy with other countries in ASEAN too, because it was my former initiative. While the implementation of single visa with Thailand is rather slow, I think applying this policy with Singapore or Vietnam is appropriate by just adopting the sample agreement with Thailand to discuss about the convenience and speed, because this is the key to facilitate the travelling of tourists from 3rd country coming to our region without asking for different visas for different country destinations. In this connection, the Ministry of Tourism must cooperate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to achieve this task.

I would like the Ministry of Tourism to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to review and further publicize policy of visa on arrival widely, because a majority of tourists do not seem to be aware of this policy despite advertisement efforts for many years.

On the other hand, the inter-ministerial committee mechanism for facilitating the travel and transportation of tourists and passengers at Poipet international border gate and at other international border gates, the Ministry of Tourism must, through the inter-ministerial mechanism, work with relevant ministries/institutions to expedite development of hospitality infrastructure at Dong Krolor and Poipet international border gates and the construction of international tourism port at Kep.

3. Transportation: I would like to compliment the effort to work with the Philippine embassy to enable direct flight from Philippine to Cambodia (because between Philippine and Cambodia is visa-free) and we must make more effort to promote direct flights from Indonesia and Japan as well. The State Secretariat for Civil Aviation must undertake this task and provide all kinds of facilitation to all requests from airliners, and must bear in mind that travelling and transportation are the challenges and key issues for the development in the tourism sector.

With respect to easing travel and transportation, I would like to command that: we must jointly eradicate all kinds of misconducts by bad people or bad officials who always disturb and cause difficulties to tourists. The Inter-ministerial Committee, with the Minister of Tourism as the chair and the General Commissioner of National Police as the Permanent Vice-Chairman has enough right to undertake this task efficiently. Furthermore, we have the tourism law which clearly state about the penalty, hence the committee must keep implementing this task effectively.

4. Strengthening development and improving the supporting environment at key tourist destinations: Siem Reap is an important tourism destination with the largest number of visiting tourist in the Kingdom of Cambodia. In this sense, we should not only rely on our tourism sector development plan but we must continue to implement this plan quickly and comprehensively while other countries in the world are in fierce competition for attracting tourists after the incidences of the global economic crisis and pandemic which are still casting the impact on their countries. The important points that we have to strengthen and jointly expand tourism development in Siem Reap – Angkor, include ensuring the increase in traffic order and safety, road expansion, facilitation of the waterway travelling, sewage system preparation and waste management and environmental protection, improvement of sanitation along the streets and at public spaces. Along with that, the promotion of Cambodia’s tourism sector to the world must show about the good environment of Cambodia, especially at famous tourism sites such as Siem Reap, Phnom Penh Capital City and Sihanouk Province.

I would like the Ministry of Tourism to cooperate with related institutions to smoothly pay more attention to this work.

5. Sustainable Development: The main objective of the law has clearly shown the need for sustainable development in tourism sector with quality and efficiency, in which it has clearly illustrated the process for preparing tourism development plan at the national and regional level, which are required to be approved by the Royal Government, and the sub-national tourism development plan by the sub-national administrative authority, but has to be consistent with the regional tourism development plan. Therefore, from now on, tourism development plan at all levels have to be firmly cooperated among related ministries/institutions and the sub-national level of authority to ensure sustainable development of the tourism sector. At the same time, we must clearly understand about those violation which may spoil or impact on the natural cultural environment such as maintaining the beach, island, various ecotourism sites, which are the most attractive natural resorts.

I would like to support and encourage the research which recognizes a number of tourism resorts as the responsible tourism development areas with high care and responsibility in order to make sure that the national and international tourists can directly visit the nature because this is also the tendency of the current society as well. But, this work has to be seriously balanced about the conservation and development by not allowing the conservation get in the way of development and using the development to destroy conservation, yet they have to be done with high conscience and consideration for our benefit and that of our future generations.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to appeal investment companies, which have already been principally approved by the Royal Government, to prepare the master plan as soon as possible and rightly put it into implementation. The Ministry of Tourism have to cooperate with other related sectors and the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) in order to help observe and monitor the implementation of the investment projects for the sake of promoting plan to attract tourists. I would also like to appreciate the provincial/municipal development management committees, who have put greatest efforts in the development of tourist attraction objectives and resorts within their framework, especially pay attention to the community based tourism, the creation of local tourism community, the promotion of various mechanisms to reduce poverty of the people.

In fact, we have been proud that currently our people become better aware of the organic agricultural products and craftsmanship products, which are full of creativity and good packaging in order to replace the imported products. These can be considered as local exporting or the replacement of imports, which allow us to save considerable amount of foreign currencies as well as contributing to the reduction of the economic downturn in tourism sector.

I have also observed with attention to the awareness campaign of Cambodia: Kingdom of Wonder and the “Clean City, Clean Resort and Good Services” movement. I have thought that we have done a lot of good things, but we have to try further to make sure this work can be more successful and to transform Cambodia into the most attractive destination for visitors in the region.

Now, we have an Inter-ministerial Committee to lead and push the awareness campaign of Cambodia: Kingdom of Wonder and the “Clean City, Clean Resort and Good Services” movement, and I agree to work as an honorary president due to the understanding that this work is significant. I would like the secretariat of this committee to convene a regular review meeting by awarding annual appreciation.

I hope that Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, related private and public sectors, will try your utmost to cooperate with one another to develop Cambodia’s tourism sector with quality, sustainability, efficiency and especially, working together to make sure that tourism sector in Cambodia can be sustained in the face of this crisis stage and pave the way for Cambodia to become the destination for cultural and natural tourism with attractiveness in the region and the world.

At the end, I would like to wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen the four gems of Buddhist blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.

May I announce the Closing of 2008 Tourism Stocktaking Conference in the 1st Semester of 2009 and Direction Setting for the 2nd Semester of 2009 and 2010 hereinafter!

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