In the wake of Covid-19, the tourism sector declined dramatically and workers in the sector lost their jobs or were forced to change careers, often to less lucrative or desirable work.
Some tourism service providers also turned to other businesses. Although Covid situation has improved with the lockdown measures were all lifted, many service providers and workers have not yet returned to work in the industry.
Such a situation has raised concerns for the entire tourist sector and spurred fears that there may be a shortage of service providers when tourists begin to return to Cambodia in large numbers.
In response to this concern, the Ministry of Tourism has recently run training sessions in tourism in various provinces to ensure that human resources are available when needed.
In Battambang province, some 400 tourism professionals will receive Hospitality Kampuchea or HoKa training and certification for 2023.
HoKa is a training programme aimed at supporting skills development in developing or emerging tourism destinations that is funded by the Swiss government and administered by Swiss NGOs.
The Ministry of Tourism’s secretary of state Pak Sokhom, who is also the head of the HoKa project, appreciated Swisscontact for its close cooperation with the ministry and its support.
So far a total of 3,000 tourism specialists have undergone HoKa training from 2017-2021.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, agreed to the implementation of the project because she understands that this is a step in training human resources in the sector.
“Such skills training is very important because the sector needs specific experts to ensure our supply again,” she said.
She added that Battambang province has a lot of potential, so it is even more important for tour operators in the province to get ready for the inevitable resurgence of visitors to Cambodia which has been named The Kingdom of Wonders.
She also voiced concerns that there may be a shortage of human resources as tourism gradually grows beyond where it was at when it peaked in 2019 pre-Covid.
“We have good products already, but instead, there are no sellers,” she continued.
Sivlin emphasised that if Cambodia wanted to boost tourism to pre-Covid-19 levels, Cambodia must have adequate human resources in the sector and be ready to sell products.
Chuob Ratana, director of the Tourism Development Planning Department, said the inclusion of Battambang province in the project’s goal for hospitality training is one of the strategies of the Hoka Project Management Committee to enhance the quality of tourist services in the province and strengthen vocational capacities of tourism staff for the coming 2023 season.
He added that the project will train 60 trainers and 350 tourist specialists in food and beverage services, front-line desk reception, housekeeping and coffee making.