The government wants to train 50,000 tourism professionals every year between now and 2025 under a new development strategy for human resources within the tourism sector.
According to a draft of the development strategy, Cambodia needs tourism experts with innovative ideas to serve the country and the region in line with the changing economy, society and markets.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon said at a meeting on Tuesday the ministry will create a tourism development fund and offer student loans to disadvantaged young people to study tourism, ensuring them access to jobs in the future.
“The tourism development strategy will focus mainly on vocational training across the country, as well as providing training to existing tourism staff,” said the Minister, adding that building human capital in the tourism industry will comply with ASEAN’s Mutual Recognition Arrangement on tourism professionals, to develop and strengthen expertise in the region.
Khom said the ministry will also issue a strategy plan for strengthening training for management officials, to equip them to cooperate between private sector organisations and government.
Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia Chapter, said the strategy will help address chronic staff shortages in the tourism industry, including in hotels and tour guide companies. According to the government, there is a shortage of 500,000 personnel in the industry.
Sinan noted that the majority of hotel owners are lacking staff in three or more areas of work, especially in Battambang, Kep, Kampot and Preah Sihanouk provinces. He added that there is currently a lack of professionalism within the tourism sector.
“The majority of hotels have good premises, but their staff lack skills while some investors are not aware of the quality of their services, because they think having a decent property is enough,” said Sinan. He also suggested that more well-trained staff are needed across all sections of the sector, including hotels, restaurants, transport services, tour guides, tour operators, travel agents, entertainment centres and resorts.
Khon also said a project to build a tourism vocational school using funding from the French Agency for Development should be carried out as quickly as possible.
According to the report from United Nations World Tourism Organisation in 2016, the world received about 1,235 million tourists which generated about 290 million jobs. The tourism sector in Cambodia also generated about 2.3 million jobs or 27 percent of total jobs, while it directly employs about 620,000 people.
Foreign tourist arrivals to Cambodia went up more than 12 percent in the first quarter of the year. A total of 1.5 million foreign tourists visited from January to March, up 12 percent compared with the same period in 2016. Asian tourists made up the majority of visitors, while travellers from Europe and the United States were among the least frequent. China came out top, with 273,000 tourists, followed by Vietnam with 203,000 and South Korea with 127,742.