Cambodia and France this week agreed to strengthen cooperation to boost the Kingdom’s tourism industry, and expressed the intention to draft and sign a memorandum of understanding on the subject in the near future.
The countries’ commitment to work together was expressed during a meeting Tuesday between Thong Khon, the Cambodian Tourism Minister, and Laurent Triponey, acting charge d’affairs at the French Embassy in Phnom Penh, which took place at the Ministry of Tourism.
The officials agreed to draft an agreement on tourism cooperation, although a time frame for the signing of such agreement was not made public.
Minister Khon said the tourism industry is one of Cambodia’s main drivers of economic growth, but that the country needs the support of development partners to tackle some of the main challenges in the sector, including a shortage of skilled labour and a relatively small offer of tourism products.
“France continues to support the development of our country, which it does by supporting different economic sectors, including the tourism industry,” Minister Khon told the French official.
“We would like to ask the French government to continue its support of the local tourism industry, particularly by helping us in a number of priority areas,” he said.
Mr Khon enumerated a number of priorities and asked for France’s help to achieve them.
“First, we need to enhance the quality of local services in line with the ministry’s slogan ‘One Service, One Standard; One Person; One Skill’,” he said.
“Second, we need to grow the tourism offer, particularly through the establishment of eco-tourism destinations and environmentally friendly accommodation options. Next, it’s the strengthening of our market research capabilities to support growth in the sector.
“Finally, we will improve the promotion of the country and its tourism destinations on online channels,” he said.
Thoun Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, told Khmer Times that Cambodia must prioritise upskilling its labour force to provide better services to tourists. He said close cooperation with France can help the Kingdom train better industry professionals.
“This type of collaborations are very important for our country, as we can learn a lot from a country like France, which has a very developed tourism industry,” he said.
To further strengthen ties between the countries, Mr Sinan recommended that an air link between them is re-established.
“We used to have a direct flight run by Air France but it was suspended many years ago due to a lack of demand,” he said, adding that a direct flight Phnom Penh-Paris will vastly increase the number of European visitors to the Kingdom.
Last year, Cambodia welcomed 5.6 million foreign tourists, an increase of 11.8 percent, according to the Ministry of Tourism. Over 850,500 of those travellers came from Europe, an increase of more than 11 percent.
With a total of 166,356 nationals visiting Cambodia last year, France was number eighth in terms of tourists by nationality.