Labour & Tourism

Call for Tourism Workers to Return to Industry

As Cambodia’s tourism industry faces a shortage of skilled professionals due to them leaving the sector during the pandemic, efforts are being ploughed into re-recruiting and training them
Foreign tourists visit the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, September 23, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Foreign tourists visit the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, September 23, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

More than 23,000 tourism workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic have received almost $9 million from the government in a bid to revive the sector and encourage them to return to work.

After the country’s socio-economic reopening, hotels, guesthouses or other tourism-related businesses were all unable to reopen immediately. According to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism on Friday, only between 50 and 60 percent of businesses have been able to restart operations due to the low number of guests.

Human resources are key to the development of tourism, especially tourism services. It is vital that quality services and safety for customers are provided, the spokesperson said during a press conference at the Office of the Council of Ministers.

“We have staff working in the tourism sector affected by covid. They took a break, some of them went to do this, do that, to solve his personal livelihood. We see some places have less staff, so guests have a shortage of services,” Top Sopheak said.

Throughout 2022, the ministry has conducted several training workshops to upskill the workforce and encourage workers who left the sector during the pandemic to return. During this period of redevelopment, business owners must step up to provide the level of services guests expect, he said.

“What are our expectations and hopes? We believe that those who have worked in the field may not give up their skills. They may come into their skills continuously as our situation improves,” he added.

President of Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA), Chhay Sivlin, accepted that the industry faces a shortage of tourism professionals and human resources. She said this is due to the length of the pandemic and business owners being forced to reduce their workforce.

This has led to tourism workers leaving the industry and finding employment in other sectors, such as construction and agriculture.

“When we reopened the country, some came. Some, because they had new jobs under contract, could not come immediately, and some were still motivated,” Sivlin said.

She added that both public and private sectors are working together to retrain staff and she believes it will take three years for tourism to return to pre-pandemic levels.

In 2019, Cambodia welcomed about 6.6 million foreign visitors, bringing in nearly $5 billion in tourism revenue. By 2020, the number of visitors fell sharply to 1.3 million, according to the Ministry.

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the number of international tourists in 2022 may decrease by 30 to 45 percent compared to 2019 before the 19-covid crisis. Global tourism is under threat and negative impact from crises and challenges.