Amid slowing growth in tourist arrivals, the government announced Friday it had approved a new draft law on tourism and a national policy on developing the sector, which last year accounted for 16 percent of Cambodia’s gross domestic product.
Posting the first monthly decline in five years, October tourist arrivals in Cambodia shrank 2.19 percent over the same month last year, according to recently released government statistics. And after 35 percent growth in arrivals in 2005, and nearly 20 percent in 2006 and 2007, the total number of arrivals in 2008—as of October—has increased by only 8.5 percent compared to the same period in 2007.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon said Sunday the government is now aiming to promote Cambodia’s culture and natural beauty while improving training and the delivery of services and opposing child sex tourism.
The version of the draft law approved by the Council of Ministers on Friday was not released to the public.
In a May policy briefing, the World Bank said regulatory uncertainty was among the top constraints to growth in Cambodia’s tourism because of overlapping and sometimes conflicting responsibilities among government bodies.
The draft law is expected to help improve the quality of service in the industry and redefine the Tourism Ministry’s role in fostering business associations and resolving disputes.
Thong Khon said the law calls for the creation of tourism vocational schools and bans hotels from admitting guests under 17 years of age who are not with a parent.
As hotel cancellation rates began to rise amid the crisis in financial markets, the ministry in October began a $350,000 television advertising campaign on CNN International inviting tourists to visit Cambodia, one of several actions the government has taken to bolster the industry, Thong Khon said.
“We are spreading information about Cambodia by all avenues. This is to challenge other countries in drawing tourists,” he said.
“Secondly, we are trying to encourage low-cost carriers,” he said, adding that the government will also seek to lure tourists from markets such as Russia and China, which have been deemed less vulnerable to the global financial crisis.
Moeung Sonn, president of the National Association of Tourism Enterprises, said Friday that he had contributed to the drafting of the new law and that be believed it would help create a better business environment.