Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
I am honored to address this closing session of the Annual Conference of the Ministry of Tourism “Taking Stock of Performance 1998-2002 and Setting Future Directions”.
On behalf of the Royal Government and my own self, I warmly congratulate and sincerely appreciate the Ministry of Tourism for their excellent performance in the past four years. The results, attained in the quest for developing of the tourism sector, present a real success in implementing of the Royal Government’s policy and reform agenda, especially the creation of jobs and the diversification of the Cambodian economy, thus contributing to accelerated and sustainable growth and poverty reduction among our people.
May I take this opportunity to thank the leadership and civil servants of the MOT for their keen and responsible efforts in successfully producing the ASEAN Tourism Agreement (ATA) which was signed by the ASEAN Heads of States/Governments on 04 November 2002. The Agreement would bring many benefits for the development of the tourism sector in Cambodia as well as in the region. In addition, I also wish to highly appreciate the cooperation between the MOT, ministries/institutions concerned, the authorities at all levels and the private sector in the organizing the ASEAN Tourism Forum (AFT) and theLaunching of the “Visit Cambodia Year 2003”. This is an important message Cambodia has sent to the public, national and world at large, that Cambodia is fully capable to engage in the regional and world affairs in equal footing.
On the one hand, with the security, political stability and social orders ensured the development of transport infrastructure, such as highways, rural roads and bridges, is a key to development of tourism. On the other hand, the change in image, in terms of facilities and services for tourists, is even more important that it has so far attained considerable progress. The numbers of hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, transportation service, tour operators, and guides, in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap as well as across the country, have been increasing every year. Historical, cultural and natural tourist sites have been managed and reorganized with good protection of natural and cultural environment. Tourism vocational training schools were established; technical staff and employees have been trained both at home and abroad.
Based on the progress of tourism sector so far, we can underline the important role of Cambodian tourism as key to national development. According to a consolidated report for 2002, the tourism sector has generated more than USD 576 million in state budget and in creation of about 100,000 jobs, thus contributing to approximately 15% of the GDP.
If we look at the development trend of tourism in the world, the Pacific region has become an increasing destination for tourists. According the World Tourism Organization’s statistics, it shows that in 2002 the world as a whole has received 715 million tourists, an increase of 3.1%, while the Asia Pacific Region alone got 130.6 million presented an increase of 18.3%, compared to 2001. In future (2020), China will become the biggest tourist destination in the world.
Thus, Cambodia would enjoy positive and favorable influences of tourism in the region. However, this involves many aspects of cooperation within and outside the region; especially attention should be paid on effective implementation of provisions accorded in the ASEAN Tourism Agreement. Thus, based on this agreement, we should plan for continued advertisement of Cambodia tourism profile so that the “Visit Cambodia” program can become successful and effective.
I appreciate and agree on the concerns and comments raised in the Conference, which was mainly focused on the current situation that is of the impacts of SARS on Cambodian tourism, measures be taken, and on the discussion of how to implement the Visit Cambodia Year and the ATA, and that forms working frameworks for the development of a quality and sustainable tourism sector in Cambodia.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to share some of future recommendations to further implement the policy program for 2003.
Impacts of SARS Disease
Although SARS cases have not yet been identified in Cambodia, the outbreak in the region has severely affected our tourism-related industries such as the airlines, travel agencies, hotels and restaurants.
In response to the spread of SARS, we should implement a number of measures, in close cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Pasteur Institute and the French Cooperation Agency.
Firstly, the key strategy is to detect persons with suspected or probable SARS to prevent the imported cases through health screening on incoming and on departing passengers.
Secondly, educate the public about the symptoms of the disease and how they can be infected and urge all those with SARS symptoms to seek medical treatment immediately.
Thirdly, organize a special hospital in anticipation for identified cases.
Fourthly, implement infection control measures in all hospitals. It is essential that enough protective equipment is made available and infection control measures are strictly applied to minimize the probability of transmission to health workers, family or public.
Fifthly, urge the population at large to improve their personal hygiene of the population at large.
Recently, I have attended a Special Meeting of ASEAN and ASEAN-China Leaders on SARS held in Bangkok, Thailand. The meeting was productive and fruitful on cooperation measures in taking steps to maintain confidence in the region and to solve the problem effectively. The Special Meeting has focused on measures to manage and control the situation of SARS, which includes: sharing experiences; policy development; strengthening partnership relations with all stakeholders and coordinating the regional response to SARS, such as strengthening preventive measures at all hospitals, cooperation among concerned institutions and authorities especially those at the international gateways for health screening on departing and arriving passengers, establishment of focal points for effective exchange of information and improved hygiene for public at large.
In addition, the meeting has decided to establish a working group on SARS and tasked our health and immigration ministers to implement the agreed initiatives.
In the current situation, we should increased the ads in the markets where not affected by SARS yet, thus we can convince that Cambodia is free from SARS cases and for tourists to travel directly Cambodia with only transits in other countries.
In addition, we should have a special promotion with the participation of private sector in order to attract more and more tourists, by considering temporary discount scheme, such as on prices of accommodations, foods and other services. The campaign should go in parallel with the launching of Visit Cambodia Year. In addition, to compensate for the decline in tourist arrival due to SARS, we should focus on the domestic markets thus promoting the sector to further prosper and develop.
Strengthened Security and Safety for Visitors
I wish to congratulate the immigration, visa and tourist police officials who have learned hard to gradually improve their performance. However, further efforts should be made, especially with regard to the behavior of the officials, so it must be good and pleasant to win the confidence of the visitors, first in our behavior, that is strictly professional but pleasant and welcoming.
A Healthy Tourism
An imperative and determining factor is the need for protection of the environment, culture and nature, the pleasant and welcoming tradition of our people, the improvement in the quality of tourism services up to the international standards, all that aims for a sustainable development of tourism. Year 2002 was the world eco-tourism year that the World Tourism Organization noted that eco-tourism is a key to sustainable development, thus we should join hand and well response to this. Cambodia possesses many favorable conditions, we have potentials for eco-tourism and natural tourism that require only efforts to well manage and appropriately develop those potentials.
In this regard, the enforcement of the future tourism law, be adopted by the national assembly and the senate, is very important. While waiting for this legislation, we should focus on improving the quality of services via the education and training provided to staff and workers in the tourism sector of the required skills, and the need to ensure the hygiene status and appropriate prices.
We should continue to train our human resource especially in the required skills at all areas of work and both in term of quantity and quality of the training. At the same time, we need not to ignore the prevention of the negative impacts arising from the tourism, the adherence to the strategic and basic principles of Cambodia tourism that is the cultural and natural tourism, the need to effectively implement all the existing laws, especially the ones against the sexual exploitation on women and children and against drug trafficking.
I believe the above recommendations that I had shared with all of you were just a humble contribution to improve the management of the tourism sector. I also believe that all of you, Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen in the government and the private sector will do more research on how we can jointly make Cambodia to become am important cultural and natural tourism destination in the region.
It is my conviction that the Visit Cambodia Year would become a key informant mechanism for Cambodia at the current situation, thus selling it as a country free of SARS and a country with full peace and security ready to welcome the visit of tourists. Finally, celebrating the success and with all hopes for better future, I wish you all the five gems of Buddhist Blessings. And may I declare the Conference closed!