Cambodia’s Minister of Tourism, Thong Khon, said at a recent tourism conference in Siem Reap that tourism companies that offer international tourists ‘zero-dollar’ tour packages are damaging Cambodia’s tourism sector and he vowed to take action to protect the industry.
Minister of Tourism Khon said that ‘zero-dollar’ and low cost tours bring unsuspecting tourists to businesses in the country, which force individuals on these tour to purchase expensive goods. In exchange for bringing tourists to these businesses, tour operators receive large commissions and kickbacks.
Minister Khon said, “This is a problem damaging the country’s reputation. This practice needs to be eradicated,” he said, explaining that the practice makes tourists feel “cheated” and discourages them from visiting the country again. Please don’t blame the tourists. Blame the companies that are selling ‘zero-dollar’ tour packages.”
He added, “These companies are not thinking about the experience of tourists. They just want to cheat them out of their money by selling them overpriced souvenirs and fake products and providing a very low-quality service, while they get a commission from the businesses.”
Another problem with ‘zero dollar’ tours, especially those from China, is that payments for goods, hotels and restaurants are paid through Chinese apps or the tour operators but Cambodian companies often don’t receive payments due to them and have been forced to close.
Clais Chenda, President of the Cambodia Hotel Association said that he agreed with the minister’s comments and that he believes the country faces a potential decline in tourism activity if companies continue engaging in the practice.
Ms. Chenda said that, “Tourists should not be cheated. It damages the reputation of our tourism sector. If customers feel cheated, they won’t come back. If you are honest with your guests, they will tell their family and friends about Cambodia and the good service they had here and more people will visit us.”
Chhay Sivlin, President of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), also said that ‘zero dollar’ tours should end as soon as possible. CATA has 300 travel and tour companies as members and has advised their members not to offer ‘zero-dollar’ tour packages.