Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged ASEAN to reopen tourism and trade now that many member nations of the bloc have vaccinated their populations.
Speaking at the 40th ASEAN Tourism Forum 2022 (ATF 2022) in Preah Sihanouk province on January 18, the prime minister also said ASEAN has a lot of work to do this year and will not be hostage to Myanmar’s protracted crisis.
“I want to emphasize that our work in 2022 is not just about Myanmar, as some have been saying for the past three weeks. We have many other initiatives and ASEAN will not be held hostage to the Myanmar issue. This is my short and to the point statement for those who follow these issues,” he said.
Cambodia is hosting ATF 2022 from January 16-22 with many local and international participants from the tourism industry and ASEAN dignitaries including ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi on a five-day official visit as the Kingdom chairs the bloc for 2022.
“I’m happy that [Lim] met with many partners in Cambodia, ranging from politics and security to economy and culture, and that they worked well with each other to prepare for Cambodia’s tour of the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2022.
“I also want to stress that the ASEAN agenda is not just one topic, there are many other issues and one of them is how to make tourism survive in the context of Covid-19 when we cannot be sure what will happen. ,” he said.
Hun Sen urged ASEAN tourism ministers to find ways to facilitate the flow of tourism this year while calling on other member countries to continue to strengthen and expand cooperation with other partners for dialogue and cooperation. development by building public-private partnerships on a local, regional and global basis to bring prosperity to ASEAN and the world.
He noted that over the past two years, ASEAN member states had implemented different measures to deal with Covid-19 and that these measures posed challenges for trade and tourism, especially travel between countries. ASEAN countries.
He said that in 2022, freight travel should be unrestricted amid Covid-19 as this is the only way to reconnect the tourism sector to business and trade in the region. He said that this decision is supported by the fact that Cambodia and many countries in the region have enough vaccines for their population, so vaccinations in an ASEAN member should be recognized by all other countries. members.
“I suggest adopting something similar to what Cambodia applies to its borders: those who are already vaccinated with two doses simply take a rapid test and 15 or 20 minutes later they can leave and travel anywhere. in the country. This would reduce travel difficulties in ASEAN.
“I also appreciate Thailand, which recently practiced these measures with Cambodia. When a Cambodian travels to Thailand, he does not have to undergo quarantine and his citizens coming to Cambodia do not have to undergo quarantine,” he said, adding that Cambodia was now open in this way to all people around the world.
Nonetheless, he noted that the reopening of tourism must be done as part of the new normal. Given that the tourism sector will be very competitive after the pandemic, he urged all ASEAN countries to think about tourism based on the quality of products and services, prices, transport facilitation, trust. and security for each tourist destination and the measures they are undertaking to control the Covid-19 situation.
“All of these are key factors for visitors when making a decision on where to travel next in this new environment. In this sense, the ASEAN tourism recovery plan in the context of Covid-19 will be part of our strategy of gradually reopening to international visitors based on a balance between socio-economic factors and public health concerns in the goal of returning to a “new normal way of life”, he said.
The Prime Minister said he supports all initiatives by ASEAN member states to implement health measures in the tourism industry, with mechanisms to ensure the return of tourism activities while continuing the fight against Covid-19. 19 by practicing common sense principles.
He said Cambodia had effectively implanted its tourism with Covid-19 safety measures and safe standard operating procedures for reopening tourism businesses in this new normal.
He also urged ASEAN to consider greater promotion of tourism within the bloc itself, although he supported the initiative to reopen tourism for the whole of ASEAN and welcome all visitors from all over the world.
“I urge ASEAN tourism ministers to declare the full reopening of tourism across the region on January 19 from here in Preah Sihanouk province,” he said.
He also urged ASEAN, the World Tourism Organization and all tourism associations to continue their human resource development plans and strengthen their existing cooperation mechanisms as well as increase the exchange of skills and talents in promoting small tourism businesses and leveraging innovation.
Hun Sen thanked ATF 2022 attendees for attending the forum in Cambodia’s coastal province and showing solidarity, friendship and unity as they work together to develop and restore the tourism and emerging from the pandemic – acts that embody the ASEAN principle of “one community, one destiny”.