Uniting to Promote Cambodia Tourism

 Luu Meng, founding member of the Cambodian Tourism Federation. (KT Photo: Nou Sotheavy)

Luu Meng, Cambodia’s most internationally recognized chef, is the owner of the Almond Group and a number of acclaimed restaurants in Phnom Penh. He is as vigorous a promoter of Cambodia as a tourist destination as he is of the Kingdom’s culinary delights, heading up both the country’s hotel association and chefs federation. He is also a founding member of the recently established Cambodia Tourism Federation, an umbrella for the nation’s various tourism-related business associations. Mr. Meng sat down with Khmer Times to discuss the organization’s role and goals in developing Cambodia’s tourism sector.

KT: What is the role and membership of the Cambodian Tourism Federation?
Meng: The federation was established with five founding members – the Pacific Asia Travel Association, Cambodia Chefs Federation, Cambodia Restaurant Association, Cambodia Hotel Association – and now Cambodia Airports.
Four more members have confirmed [plans to join], so we have nine so far. The other members include the river ports – with sea ports hopefully joining soon – the Cambodia Tourist Guide Association, the International Business Club and EuroCham Cambodia.
KT: You said Cambodia Airports recently joined. What is the significance of an airport management firm joining a tourism chamber?
Meng: We’re working with the country’s tourism [entry points] to welcome foreign guests and airports are a big part of that process. Airports are very important – they promote tourism and [their employees] are the first people to greet visitors arriving by air.
The federation’s direction is that everyone in the tourism industry should be part of CTF, including transport organizations such as airports, airlines and bus companies.
KT: How does uniting the various tourism-related business associations help to improve the tourism industry?
Meng: Each of the associations speaks its own language. By creating a federation, [or umbrella for all these associations,] we can [push forward] the agenda in one common language. One direction to raise the quality of food, hotel, travel and service in order to better serve our guests. That way, tourists will go back to their home countries with good memories and experiences to share with their friends.
We aim to advise the [policymakers] in different ministries, and to foster cooperation between the private and government sectors. But in order for this process to work, we need everyone to work together.
KT: What is the first priority that CTF is addressing?
Meng: Our first job is to market the country and train people by educating workers in human resources. Without people, we cannot talk; without service, we cannot sell.
We want to make Cambodia a first-choice destination for travelers. Many people who visit the Kingdom come here after vacationing in a neighboring country first. But we want to attract more people to come here directly and spend more time in Cambodia to experience our culture and people.
KT: Inbound Chinese tourism was up 20 percent in 2014, and Chinese now represent the second biggest nationality of foreign visitors to Cambodia after the Vietnamese. What impact is this having on the tourism market?
Meng: Simple, connectivity. With the addition of more airlines, it is more convenient for people to book their flights now and there are more direct flights to China, and charter flights as well. Cambodia Angkor Air now has direct flights to China, which is increasing the number of Chinese tourists. New airlines like Bayon Airlines, Bassaka Air and Apsara Airlines are proliferating, which is a good sign for the tourism industry.
At the end of the day, whether they are Vietnamese, Chinese or Japanese; numbers are always good for us in tourism. But we need more people to invest in quality in order to enhance the overall experience of tourists in our country.
(Referring to reports of tour operators complaining that hotels near Angkor Wat had been booked solid by Chinese tour groups) Just to be clear, Siem Reap only has a certain period of time where there are there not enough rooms. Apart from the month of January and during Chinese New Year and school holidays, there are plenty of rooms for visitors. But one of the ideas we hope to suggest as an organization is to offer [hotel] promotions in the low season. We can offer extra service without dropping prices.
KT: Is the Cambodian government’s restrictions on foreign workers having an impact on the hotel industry?
Meng: The [requirement that] foreign workers make up a maximum of 10 percent of the workforce is not a problem for the hotel industry. Not many hotels want to spend money to hire and bring in foreign employees, even if Asean will open doors for emigrating skilled workers.
Moreover, the ratio of 10 Cambodians to one foreigner is not an issue because we intend to localize the tourism industry by investing in training for better human resources.
 
Source: http://www.khmertimeskh.com/news/7598/uniting-to-promote-cambodia-tourism/

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