PHNOM PENH, May 17 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia on Tuesday launched the Tourism Recovery Co-Financing Scheme with capital funding of 150 million U.S. dollars, aiming at supporting COVID-19-hit-tourism businesses, officials said.
Speaking at the event held in a hybrid format, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Aun Pornmoniroth, who is also minister of economy and finance, said this co-financing scheme was made possible with a government's contribution of 75 million dollars and participating financial institutions' contribution of 75 million dollars.
"Enterprises in the tourism sector affected by the COVID-19 crisis can apply for loans from participating financial institutions that are partners of the state-owned Small and Medium Enterprise Bank of Cambodia, or SME Bank, at a concessional interest rate," he said.
"Through this scheme, enterprises in the tourism sector will be able to restore, recover and strengthen their competitiveness, as well as promote and transform the tourism sector to be more attractive," he added.
Economy and Finance Ministry's secretary of state Phan Phalla, who is also chairman of the SME Bank, said businesses such as hotels, food and beverage suppliers and related service-based industries can apply for loans up to 400,000 dollars, with the maximum interest rate of 6.5 percent per annum and loan terms of up to seven years.
"This co-financing scheme focuses only on tourism sector, aiming at helping businesses prepare for national and international tourists as the COVID-19 crisis eases," he said.
Tourism is one of the four pillars supporting Cambodia's economy. Prior to the pandemic, the Southeast Asian country attracted 6.6 million international visitors in 2019, earning a total revenue of 4.9 billion dollars, which accounted for 12 percent of the kingdom's gross domestic product.
However, in 2020 and 2021, the tourism sector declined sharply due to the impacts of COVID-19 that caused many enterprises to suspend or close their businesses completely. As a result, tens of thousands of people lost their jobs and incomes.
Kong Sopheareak, director of Tourism Statistics Department at the Ministry of Tourism, said the sector has gradually recovered since last November after the kingdom has reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers without quarantine following the vaccination of most of the country's 16 million population against COVID-19.
He said the kingdom received almost 160,000 foreign visitors in the first quarter of 2022, an increase of 125 percent from 70,901 over the same period last year.
"With our quarantine-free policy, we're confident that tourists will consider Cambodia as a key destination for their vacations and we hope to attract between 600,000 and 700,000 international tourists in 2022, an expected rise from only 200,000 in 2021," he told Xinhua.