Drop Visa Fee to Boost Tourism: Guides

Photo: Isa Rohany

SIEM REAP -- Visa fee waivers should be applied to encourage more visitors as tourism growth has been slow after COVID-19, Angkor tour guides say.

Yu Khemerak, a guide in Siem Reap province, believes the waiver would help because tourists would have more to spend on local people.

“When they come without having to pay for the visa, they will be able to use the money to pay for the tourism services such as vehicle renting, which will help the local people,” Khemerak said.

Duch Saron, deputy director of the Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association (KATGA), said the government should extend the length of stay if it cannot allow the fee waiver.

“If the tourists say longer, then they’ll have to spend more, which will also help the local people,” he said.

However, Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), said one of the reasons for the slow growth of tourists recently is the weather.

“There have been heavy rains lately, making it more inconvenient for the tourists because the natural destinations or heritage sites are quite far from one to another,” she said.

The number of people arriving in the country had risen but the numbers going to tourist spots was still low.  The others came for different reasons.

Sivlin agreed that other countries had used this method effectively but  she believed the visa fee waiver alone would not be enough to attract more tourists.

Sivlin focused more on the hospitality, quality of services and creativity of the host country.

She said hospitality must be attractive and not repetitive.

“Service providers must strengthen their services with creativity,” she said.

“The public service's quality, especially, must be enhanced. These sectors have to be aligned with one another.”

Cambodia does not only welcome new international tourists, but also awaits tourists who have visited the country before, Sivlin added.

Cambodia welcomed more than 2.5 million international tourists in the first seven months of 2023, up 409 percent on the same period in 2022, the Tourism Ministry says.

Of these, more than 910,000 tourists travelled by air, 1.63 million on land, and 30,000 by sea, the ministry said in July. Most tourists were from Thailand, Vietnam, China, Laos, US, South Korea, Indonesia, France, UK, Malaysia, and Australia.

Sivlin said, “The growth of tourists requires all stakeholders' participation in promoting and advertising more about the country's tourism.”

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