NEWS Round-Up May 23-May 31

ASEAN, coronavirus, recovery


Banteay Srei temple complex with its own identity

Siem Reap has been suffering until the COVID pandemic of overcrowding, turning increasingly tourists away from Angkor Wat temples. A new alternative to Angkor is the nearby temple of Banteay Srei. The district with the beautiful ancient khmer temples is located 35 km north of Angkor Wat, a 45-mn drive today.

In a recent interview with the Phnom Penh Post newspaper, district governor Khim Finan expressed his hopes to see his district turning into an eco-tourist destination and be an alternative destination to Siem Reap city, focusing on nature tourism. “We are not trying to design Banteay Srei as another Siem Reap city. We will create our own Banteay Srei identity, adapting our style as we showcase the rice fields, mountains, green lush forests, horse-riding, boat racing and camping,” stressed the governor to the newspaper.

To improve tourism, the governor wants travellers to overnight in his district, With his administration, he currently studies tourism infrastructure as well as the possibility to have homestays run by locals. Other important issues will be streets lighting, security, cleanliness and hygiene. ” If we we want tourists to spend a night here, we need to do more,” explains Khim Finan.

Banteay Srei is home to the well-known Banteay Srei Temple among the other large temples such as Angkor Wat, Bayon and Taprum. But the governor would also like visitors to discover villages making palm sugar as well Kulen Mountain. Agro-tourism would be a major point of promotion of the area. “We have many crops such as dragon fruit, jujube, Pailin’s juicy longans, durian, cashew nut, melon, mango, sweet potato and mountain rice,” told the governor. The district administration also identified Beoung Chhouk, a natural reservoir, offers beautiful landscape while Kbal Spean Mountain could become a perfect destination for soft adventure and cultural experiences.



New health and hygiene protocols for tourists visiting Indonesia

Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy declared that protocols for the tourism sector in the new normal will focus on hygiene, health and safety in conducting businesses according to Ari Juliano Gema, spokesperson of the ministry’s COVID-19 Impact Mitigation Task Force in a statement on Sunday.

“Particularly for the tourism sector, the application of the new normal protocols aim to make visiting tourists feel safe and comfortable because tourism facilities are improved following the standards of cleanliness, health and safety,” he said.

Indonesia’s Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Wishnutama Kusubandio noted that “health and security protocols will attract tourists. We continue to work hard to formulate strategic moves to prepare a health protocol in an effort to accelerate recovery of the tourism sector,” he stated.

The minister remains upbeat about Indonesia’s tourism industry recovering sooner than expected or less than five years to return to normalcy. The closure of tourist destinations owing to the pandemic should be viewed as an opportunity to evaluate and rearrange locations, boost digital innovation and to improve services and facilitate sustainable tourism development by tour operators.

“We have to work towards ensuring faster recovery of the tourism sector. We fully understand that tourism is the backbone of the economy,” he noted.



Thailand and Vietnam tourists to be allowed again in Japan by coming summer

Japan is considering easing entry restrictions on people from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand because of signs that novel coronavirus infections are declining in those countries, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing government officials.

The government may relax the limits from as early as summer, the newspaper said Sunday.

The visitors would be required to carry documentation showing that they had tested negative for the virus before leaving their countries, and would need to be re-tested when they arrive in Japan, according to the report.



High speed rail project to be postponed again

Malaysia and Singapore agreed on May 31 to suspend until December 31 a project for a high-speed rail link between the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and the city-state, and allow discussion of changes.

Analysts estimate the project, first announced by both nations in 2013, will cost about $17 billion, though the two have tried to renegotiate the terms of an initial pact.

“The government of Malaysia and the government of Singapore have agreed to resume discussions on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail infrastructure project in the near future,” said Mohamed Azmin Ali, Malaysia’s minister of international trade and industry.

“The discussions will encompass some of the proposed changes in the commercial and technical aspects of the project,” he said in a statement.

Singapore’s transport ministry did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

(Source: Reuters)



Mekong Tourism Forum postponed to February 2021

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) officially announcedthat the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar decided to move the annual Mekong Tourism Forum dates to February 15-16, 2021 from August 25-26, 2020, amid the current COVID-19 pandemic. The reasoning is based on current travel restrictions, and the low likelihood that conference delegates would be comfortable in a closed meeting venue with over 300 people.

Myanmar will continue to host the forum in Bagan essentially to promote its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site a designation that was awarded in July 2019. The theme will still be “Achieving Balanced Tourism”, with a focus on rebuilding tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

The MTCO executive director, Jens Thraenhart said: “The theme ‘Achieving Balanced Tourism’ is more relevant than ever, because we have a big opportunity to reset tourism and become more sustainable by embracing innovative models such as ‘Doughnut Economics’, and leveraging regional collaboration by creating travel bubbles to accelerate tourism recovery.”

“While nobody can predict if travel will actually be possible in February and people will be comfortable in being together at a conference with hundreds of delegates, we are now setting the new dates, and hope for the best”, explained Jens Thraenhart. “We will be working hard with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar, the private sector organizations led by the Myanmar Tourism Federation to ensure a safe event with appropriate hygiene measurements in place.”

A spokesperson of the Minister of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar commented: “We are extremely proud to host the first Mekong Tourism Forum post the Covid-19 pandemic. This will be an important tourism event not only for Myanmar, but for the entire Greater Mekong Subregion, and even ASEAN, as the event will set strategies and collaborations for rebuilding tourism in the region in the most sustainable way. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Bagan, located in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar, dates back to the 9th centuries, and its pagodas have survived the changing times. There could be not a more perfect venue to define the future of tourism in the Greater Mekong subregion.”

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office is planning a half-day Virtual Mekong Tourism Forum via video conferencing in the afternoon on August 25, with a focus on resilience and recovery of tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion.