Tourism Group: Thais Undercut Cambodian Travel Industry

The Cambodian government has allowed Thailand’s tourism industry to overrun Cambodia’s with cheaper services thanks to a lack of competition, neglect and mismanagement, a tourism association president said Thursday.

Moeung Sonn, president of the National Association of Tourism and managing director of Euroasia Travel, also blamed the government for high airport taxes, such as the $20 Pochentong Airport tax for international travelers. The tax is a dis-incentive for tourists and travelers. Thailand and Singapore’s tax is $10 and $12 respectively, Moeung Sonn said.

“This will be very easy to fix if the government wanted to,” he said.

The bad roads and poor infrastructure of Cambodia also hurts the tourism industry and the government must act quickly to “fix roads linking every province,” Moeung Sonn said.

One of the largest problems, however, is the government’s permission to allow Thai companies to do business without competition from Cambodian companies, the tourism official said.

For example, when the Cambodian-run and owned Royal Air Cambodge was in operation, Thai Airways sold one-way airline tickets from Bangkok to Siem Reap for $98. However, when Royal Air Cambodge lost its investors last year and suspended operations, Thai Airways increased the price for the same ticket to $120.

The foreign monopoly does not just extend to travel, however, Moeung Sonn said. A single tourist in Cambodia spends approximately $500 to $600 per visit. But 70 percent of the tourists stay in Thai-owned hotels or work with Thai travel agencies, he said.

From a national point of view, the outlook is depressing, Moeung Sonn said.

“Customers spend money for Thai transportation, for Thai tour guides, for Thai food and shopping and buy hand-made Thai souvenirs,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean the government has been inactive, one official said in response to Moeung Sonn’s criticisms.

The government plans to issue regulations on the management of cultural souvenirs and will ban souvenirs that are not licensed by Cambodian companies—a regulation aimed at improving the climate for Cambodian tour-related businesses, Ministry of Culture Undersecretary of State Chuch Peoun said.

Despite his condemnations, Moeung Sonn said all was not lost. The recent commune elections could help tourism in Cambodia if the new commune chiefs take the lead.

“This is the time for new commune chiefs to lead people to fix roads and to research our own culture,” he said.


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