Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Distinguished national and international guests,
Dear all participants,
It is my pleasure to attend the closing of the important 2012-2013 tourism stocktaking and direction setting conference: “Cambodia’ Tourism toward the ASEAN Integration 2015” and celebration of the National Day of Clean City under the theme “Your Contribution to Clean City”.
I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate and commend the Ministry of Tourism for the great success and performance. In fact, achievements to date reflect our sense of responsibility, collective effort and determination to promote the sustainability of tourism sector and contribute to socio-economic development in accordance with the Rectangular Strategy-Phase III.
Overall, I view this regularly held conference as a mechanism for sharing experience and recommendations aimed to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency in implementing tourism-related policies, strategies, action plans and measures. The conference is a good opportunity for gathering to review progress, exchange ideas and views and put forward new policy measures and targets for the coming years. In this spirit, I wish to lend my full support to and encourage the management and officials of the Ministry of Tourism to further strive to achieve new progress contributing to sustainable socio-economic development.
Overall, I deeply appreciate and fully support the report by H.E. Dr. Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism a moment ago.
It is clear that Cambodia is enjoying peace, political stability, security, order in society and development in all sectors. Notably, we recorded economic growth of 7.6% in 2013. GDP reached USD 15 billion and GDP per capita increased to USD 1,036 in the same period. Moving forward, economic growth is projected to exceed 7% per annum in 2014 and in the medium term. This optimistic growth projection attests to development in all sectors, especially agriculture, tourism, garment and construction that provide impetus for GDP growth.
As acknowledged by the UN, tourism is a socio-economic sector that helps promote economic growth, employment, poverty reduction and reduction of global warming and play an important role in regional integration. Cambodia regards the tourism sector as green gold. In 2013, we welcomed 4.2 million inbound tourists, an increase of 17.5% compared to 2012, with USD 2.5 billion of tourism revenue. The numbers of inbound tourists are projected to reach 4.8 million and 6.1 million in 2015 and 2018 respectively followed by the projection of 7.5 million inbound tourists in 2020 that will bring USD 5 billion to the economy and create 80,000 jobs.
In addition, our tourism sector has been playing an important role in promoting Cambodia’s reputation in the region and the world, through the launch “Cambodia: Kingdom of Wonder” campaign and “Clean City, Clean Resort, Good Service” contest movement. In this sense, the Royal Government is committed to further developing tourism into a key sustainable sector for promoting sustainable economic growth and Cambodia’s integration into the ASEAN. Going forward, Cambodia as well as other ASEAN member countries is firmly and aggressively moving toward shared prosperity. Economic growth in ASEAN member countries, facilitation of cross-border transport and connectivity of physical infrastructure along with facilitation of cross-border movement of people, goods and services mean we have opened a new chapter of regional tourism and ASEAN region is now considered a very attractive and open tourist destination in the world. In integrating its tourism sector into the region, Cambodia must keep control of key pulses by centering on “Integration for Tourism, Tourism for Integration” which requires all of us to focus on the blood vein of tourism sector. Two key fundamentals, improved competitiveness and sustainability of tourism development must be developed in parallel. In this sense, we must grab new opportunities arising from regional and global tourism developments and maximize our comparative advantages. Taking this opportunity, I wish to commend and highly regard the Ministry of Tourism for preparing “Strategic Tourism Development Plan 2012-2020” which set out clear vision, strategic direction and concrete measures for developing the national tourism sector in line with ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2012-2015 and the concept of ASEAN tourism integration implemented by all ASEAN member countries on the basis of “think globally, plan regionally and act locally”.
Within the national framework, integrating our tourism into the region requires three components, viz. (1) promotion of tourism investment, development of innovative and memorable tourism products and increase of marketing and dissemination campaign; (2) strengthening of tourism product quality and human resource development for tourism sector; and (3) promotion of connectivity and facilitation of movement.
I wish to take this opportunity to contribute to the development of Cambodia’s tourism sector toward ASEAN integration 2015 by sharing with you some of my views as follows:
First, further effort to develop creative and attractive tourism products and provide memorable experience to tourists: the Ministry of Tourism must collaborate with related ministries/institutions to create new tourism products in the four priority tourism zones, viz. (1) Phnom Penh and its surrounding areas : The Ministry of Tourism must collaborate with the Phnom Penh Municipality, ministries/institutions and the private sector to create more tourism products and make tourist stay longer by linking Phnom Penh to nearby resorts such as Udong, Koh Dach, Kampong Luong etc. In addition, we need to create pedestrian zones, weekly high-end cultural performance for tourists, boat expedition along the Mekong river, aerial excursion over the Mekong river and so on. In addition, we need to attract more investment in the construction of large commercial centers such as the-soon-to-be-opened AEON Shopping Mall and PARKSON Asia’s Leading Department Store because they are part of tourist attraction. Moreover, we also need to make sure we are ready for hosting large international events, tourism events included, by drawing participation from all levels and all sectors to promote economic and political interest and market Cambodia. In this sense, I wish to encourage further investment in infrastructure for hosting international events, especially in Phnom Penh and Siemreap. Taking this opportunity, I welcome the organization of 5th International Youth Conference in Cambodia on 1-7 August, jointly organized by the Ministry of Tourism, Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, and World Humanitarian Organization and the organization of Asia Pacific PATA Travel in September 2014, as well as ASEAN investment forum, tourism forum and International Conference on Community Tourism and so on. (2) Siemreap-Angkor: the Ministry of Tourism must collaborate with Apsara Authority, Siemreap provincial authority, related ministries- institutions to ensure effective implementation of the Angkor site management plan and tourism diversification to Tonle Sap and surrounding areas as well as organization of tourism and sport events. Taking this opportunity, I wish to thank Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia for working with related ministries/institutions to organize Angkor Sangkran 2013. The second Angkor Sangkran is planned for this year. (3) Coastal Areas: I support the diversification of tourism from cultural and historical attractions to eco-tourism and coastal areas. Development of coastal tourism requires vigilant implementation, concrete development strategy and institutional mechanism. In this sense, I wish to call on the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, Committee for Cambodian Bay Management and Development to collaborate with related ministries/institutions in laying out concrete measures for the successful implementation of Bokor Declaration on “Sustainable Development of Coastal Cities”. (4) Northeastern region: the emergence of eco-tourism and tourism communities will attract tourist who love nature and clean environment. We need to fully capitalize on eco-tourism with sense of responsibility. We also need to promote the establishment and development of tourism communities and eco-tourism communities, especially in priority regions, aimed to preserve natural resources, regional custom and tradition and create jobs and increase income for local people. I wish to congratulate the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for the initiative to develop eco-tourism community. More tourism products will be created and people will not have to migrate to find jobs. In this sense, as Cambodia leads and hosts “ASEAN Tourism Community Standard”, I call on the three ministries to work with provincial authorities to organize eco-tourism festival in province with high eco-tourism potentials. In addition, I wish to call on the Council for the Development of Cambodia to thoroughly review investment proposal by embedding green concept and ideas. I also call on the ministries-institutions and private sector to further implement “Clean City, No Plastic Bag Floating in the Air” by encouraging the National Committee for Clean City Assessment to cooperate with the Ministry of Environment and Phnom Penh Municipality to implement 3R waste management pilot projects in shopping centers by charging a small fee for plastic bag and promoting public awareness on 3R waste management principle even in primary school. (5) Mekong and Bassack Rivers: we must promote the development of agro-tourism and rural tourism in provinces along the Mekong and Bassac rivers that have great potential for cultural tourism and natural tourism. In this spirit, I wish to call on the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and sub-national authorities to work with related institutions and the private sector to promote tourism along rivers and agro-tourism to create more tourism products. In addition, for the interest of local people, we need to prepare Model Tourism Village to accommodate tourist in the house of local people in cities, urban areas and river area. We also need to create Tourism Port along the Mekong river and Tonlesap river and organize tourism events in provinces along the Mekong river and Bassac river.
Second, further strengthening the quality of tourism products: along with the development of tourism products, we also need to give attention to quality of tourism products and services to ensure pleasant experience for tourists. In this sense, all stakeholders must involve in the “Clean City, Clean Resort, Good Service” movement contest which aims at improving the quality of tourism products. While ASEAN has launched a number of standards, including Green ASEAN Hotel Standards, ASEAN Guesthouse Standards, ASEAN Tourism City Standards, ASEAN Spa Standards and ASEAN Public Restroom Standards, the Ministry of Tourism must prepare regulation framework for classifying and labeling tourism bases in accordance with the Law on Tourism.
Third, further strengthening public service in tourism sector: along with the strengthening of quality of tourism products, we need to pay attention to provision of public services relating to the management of tourism industry by promoting, disseminating and implementing the Law on Tourism and its implementation tools. I wish to congratulate the Ministry of Tourism on the initiative to prepare online tourism registration which is a move to facilitate and eliminate unnecessary barriers in license issuance process. I also wish to congratulate the Ministry of Tourism on the preparation of the strategy on the management of tour guide training and quality strengthening which is an important document for the management of tour guide. I fully support the initiative to launch online tour guide registration which is a “single-window” for effectively transparently linking tourists to tour guides.
Fourth, further development of human resource in tourism sector: to prepare ourselves for the free movement of skilled tourism workers in 2015, it is necessary to focus on human resource because they are the determinant of quality, sustainability and competitiveness of the tourism sector of Cambodia. In implementing the Law on Tourism, the Ministry of Tourism must further collaborate with related institutions, private sector and development partners to create a National Tourism School which can provide quality training programs in accordance with required national and regional standards so that Cambodia is ready for the anticipated free movement of skilled tourism workers in 2015, in addition to improved access to tourism training at affordable costs. In this sense, I welcome the establishment of Tourism Council which is participated by national and international academia and tourism experts to provide inputs for the development of tourism sector in Cambodia.
Fifth, further marketing research and dissemination: I highly appreciate the “Cambodia: Kingdom of Wonder” campaign under all forms and all means. I call on the Ministry of Tourism to further cooperate with the private sector attract tourists from ASEAN, ASEAN plus 3, India and emerging markets such as Russia, Saudi Arabia etc while strengthening existing markets such as Europe and US. To do this job effectively, we need to create Marketing and Dissemination Board as soon as possible while improving the public-private partnership through joint investment in advertising tourism in international market.
Sixth, further facilitation of movement of tourists: Inter-ministerial Committee on facilitation of movement of tourist at international border check points must improve hospitality infrastructure to respond to the needs of tourists of all ages, including parking, waiting room, currency exchange counter, information counter etc. In addition, we need to simplify procedures for processing cross-border movement of tourists and eliminate unnecessary barriers. I wish to call on institutions and related stakeholders to intensify the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity to strengthen and expand connectivity which is the basis for tourism development in Cambodia because tourists from third countries and domestic tourists are our main market. We need to promote the implementation of uniform visa agreement with Thailand under the ACMECS framework. The Ministry of Tourism, State Secretariat of Civil Aviation and stakeholders must further strive to facilitate and open new flight connectivity, including budget airlines, with ASEAN, ASEAN plus 3, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Europe. With the domestic framework, further development of physical infrastructure such as roads, electricity and clean water is needed to support tourism activities.
Seventh, security and safety of tourists: I highly commend the Ministry of Interior, National Police Commissariat, especially the Tourism Police for working hard to ensure safety for tourists. I also welcome the establishment of private security officers by tour operators to help public security officers ensure security and safety at tourist destination. Moreover, tour operators must cooperate with the Ministry of Interior, National Police Commissariat, the Ministry of Health, related institutions and private sector, insurance companies to strengthen rescue service for tourists by preparing the national plan on tourist safety and coming up with concrete measures. For coastal tourism, the Ministry of Tourism must cooperate with sub-national authorities, related institutions, private sector to launch Cambodia Bay Guard.
Eighth, further promotion of domestic tourist movement: while we are working hard to attract foreign tourists, we must not forget the importance of domestic tourists. By doing this, we are able to promote compatriotism and recognition of the value of our rich cultural and natural assets. I commend the Ministry of Tourism for producing ad spots and tourism songs and the Media for supporting this effort. I welcome the creation of tour packages for our people. Private enterprises should prepare tour visit for their employees at least once a year.
Ninth, governance in the tourism sector: sustainable development of tourism sector requires participation from all stakeholders in developing and managing the tourism industry. Apart from the role of the government, the private sector must also take part in ensuring sustainability of the sector through improved form of doing business by starting with green and clean concept on “corporate social responsibility”. In this sense, the Ministry of Tourism must review and strengthen its administration structure.
I followed the “Cambodia: Kingdom of Wonder” campaign and “Clean City, Clean Resort, Good Service” contest attentively. Today, we issue the preliminary result of “Clean City” contest. The first City/Khan “Clean City” prize will be announced on 27 February 2015. I welcome the progress to date and wish to congratulate Battambang City for leading the scorecard, followed by Siemreap, Kep and Posat. I call on sub-national authorities to work harder to compete for the Rumduol 2, Rumduol 3 in 2015 by improving the cleanliness of your controlled areas in accordance with “ASEAN: feel the warmth”.
Before ending, I am confident that related ministries/institutions, private sector and development partners will continue cooperating to develop Cambodia tourism sector, especially make it real “green gold” for the cause of green economy in accordance with Rectangular Strategy- Phase III.
Finally, along with the closing of the 2012-2013 stocktaking and future direction setting conference “Cambodia Tourism toward ASEAN Integration 2015” and the celebration of National Day of Clean City under the theme “Your Contribution to Clean City”, I wish Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen four gems of Buddhist blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Healthiness and Strength./.