The third MICE and Biz Expo recently held in Siem Reap has been declared a success in light of the cancellation of other similar international events amid fears of the spread of COVID-19.

While Siem Reap province has seen tourist numbers drop dramatically, the three-day industry event saw 40 international buyers, 10 local buyers and 31 sellers gather to discuss MICE (Meeting, Incentive, Conference and Events) issues.

Thourn Sinan, chairman of the PATA Cambodia Chapter (PATACC), spoke of his pride over the event continuing to go ahead despite the adverse climate.

“Cambodia conducted this international event, while some countries cancelled theirs. For instance, the ITB Berlin [the world’s leading travel trade show was due to begin tomorrow but has been called off],’’ Mr Thourn said.

Pak Sokhom, Cambodia’s Secretary of State for Tourism, said at the event that it is important to continue to push the tourism sector in Cambodia. He also gave special thanks to attendees.

“We have created proper tour packages for tourists, while developing the infrastructure and necessary investments needed to make the country a potential world tourism destination,” he said. “I thank the international delegation, international buyers and sellers in the Asean region [Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Myanmar and Thailand] for participating in the event.”

COVID-19 has caused a serious effect on the tourism sector in Cambodia, with a 15 per cent downturn in foreign tourists coming to Cambodia in the last two months. Of those, Chinese tourist numbers have declined by 90 percent.

To mitigate the situation, Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for hospitality and service providers to reduce their accommodation tariffs. On a national level, he has urged workshops, seminars, short training courses and other events organised by government bodies, the private sector and nongovernmental organisations to continue to host their events in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.

Thong Khon, minister of Tourism, backed this up by confirming that the ministry fully intends to continue full steam ahead with its plans.

“To attract more tourists to Siem Reap, the ministry will host more than 20 events, collaborating with relevant stakeholders. The events can be workshops, seminars, expos, international meetings or conferences, tourism events, sports and cultural events,” he said.

He added that the ministry will facilitate travelling for all tourists by road to visit Angkor Wat, in Siem Reap. At the same time, he called for all authorities to ensure the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 infection to the country to help allay tourists’ fears.

Additionally, Thourn confirmed that several industry events, co-hosted by PATACC, are still fully expected to go ahead. These include the Domestic Travel and Gastronomy Fair 2020 in Phnom Penh in March.