Sihanoukville sandbox: Gov’t to initiate quarantine-free tourism to Cambodia

In a bid to quickly reopen the country to international tourists, Cambodia will implement a sandbox scheme to allow quarantine-free visits for those who are fully-vaccinated to Sihanoukville, Koh Rong island and the Dara Sakor Resort in Koh Kong province from November 30.

The Quarantine Free Safe Tourism package will apply to tourists who book to stay for at least five days at these holiday destinations, following which they will be allowed to travel anywhere in the country if they test negative for Covid-19.

Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told Khmer Times yesterday that the Vaccination Tourism strategy is to attract international travellers to the Kingdom because they will no longer have to quarantine in hotels.

“There are two options for these quarantine-free visits. One is that the foreign visitor must come on a group tour package to these destinations. The other is for families or small groups who are high-end tourists,” he said.

Sopheak noted that the visitors must fly directly to Sihanoukville and not through the Phnom Penh International Airport.

He added that after the end of the five-day tour package, international travellers will be allowed to visit the rest of the country at the selected destinations after PCR testing clears them from Covid-19.

Sopheak added that the scheme will be extended to Siem Reap in January.

Visitors on these vaccination tours are required to have a quick screening for Covid-19 upon arrival at the airport. If the results are negative, they can travel freely in the “safe tourism” destinations while strictly following health measures.

Sopheak also said the ministry is looking into the possibility of allowing quarantine-free visits from Thailand which is offering this kind of tourism from November 1.

This comes after Prime Minister Hun Sen on October 22 asked the ministry and Foreign Affairs Ministry to look into allowing air travellers from Thailand to enter Cambodia without having to undergo quarantine.

“The ministry is working on it now to consider allowing Thais and foreign travellers in Thailand to fly into the country without quarantine,” Sopheak said.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agent president Chhay Sivlin told Khmer Times yesterday that the reopening of the selected destinations for vaccinated tourists is a first step to bringing the tourism sector back to life after being badly hit due to the pandemic for almost two years.

She said during this period, many businesses have been affected due to the drop in tourists as the country tried to fight against the deadly virus.

“I think after the announcement from the government, private and related tourism businesses will prepare to welcome back tourists. Businesses which still have not done so still have more than a month to prepare to receive foreign tourists,” said Sivlin.

Sihanoukville spokesman Kheang Phearom told Khmer Times yesterday that the  Cambodia quarantine free sandbox initiative is a great pathway to reopening the country and restore the national economy.

“I am really pleased with the framework which was just released and provincial authorities will push harder to be ready to welcome back the foreign tourists,” he said.

“Officials will prepare and instruct all residents especially business owners to be well prepared by ensuring standard Covid-19 preventive guidelines are in place and we will strengthen the services to warmly welcome tourists,” he added.

Hor Boramy, the owner of Sweet Dream Koh Rong Hotel, said yesterday that he is really delighted that the framework is coming out and opening back for foreign tourists.

“Since the Covid-19 outbreak and tourism sector has closed, we can’t find any income and the business is not really good too. We receive only the local tourists,” he said

“The framework is going to start at the end of next month, so I am delighted and will get my hotel ready and prepared to safe SOP standards to welcome the tourists warmly,” he added.

Pheang Bun Kea, owner of CS Tour company operating in Preah Sihanouk province, said yesterday that he had to suspend business following the pandemic due to the lack of tourists.

“I am really happy the Vaccination Tourism is going to revitalise the sector in coming days. I will reopen my business and gather all the former staff back to operate our tour services once again,” he said.

“Under this scheme, I will try to cooperate with foreign tour companies to service tourists when they come to the Kingdom,” he added.

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