Officials at the Ministry of Tourism announced the launch of a new Law of Tourism on Friday, calling for heightened supervision and responsibility toward those working in the tourism industry.
The law, which has been 10 years in the making and received technical assistance from the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private sector arm, delivers a set of clearly defined demands for the government and private sector to help develop the tourism industry and ensure higher quality services.
“The purpose of the law is namely about developing the tourism industry, which in return will help reduce poverty,” Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said in a speech on Friday at the launch of the law, which was ratified by King Norodom Sihamoni on June 10.
Mr Khon said that the law would enable the government to have more control over the sector, and would insure that establishments working in the industry have formal licenses that are renewed on a yearly basis.
The law also stipulates which segments of the industry are to be controlled by provincial and municipal departments and which are to be controlled by the ministry itself.
Tith Chantha, director general of the Ministry of Tourism, said that the law was organized into 12 chapters and explains very clearly which areas of the sector the ministry will help supervise.
“For example, we will now start to provide advice to the Departent of Civil Aviation as it is an important part of our industry,” he said, but agreed that the most important rules within the law regarded business licensing.
“Some tour operators for example used their licenses after they had expired. We never penalized them. But now it is the law. No more exceptions,” he warned.
Fines for businesses that fail to renew their licenses will range from $500 to $5,000.
Enterprises that adhere to rules on sustainable tourism practices – outlined in chapter 5 – will receive an Eco label, which they can present to the public showing they have met the required standards.
The law also urges businesses to “urgently report any suspects of illegal human or drug trafficking to the local police.”
Ho Vandy, co-chair of the government-private sector Tourism Working Group, said the law would increase transparency between the government and the private sector.
To gain a license, businesses have to “reach certain standards in customer services and human resources,” he said. “This will help raise the quality of the sector.”