SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Korea Bizwire) – The decision of Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism to limit the number of Korean-speaking tour guides working in the resort town of Siam Reap, home to the famous tourist attraction Angkor Wat, has stirred up the local Korean community.
Initially, the Ministry of Tourism would confer Korean tour guide licenses to those who could pass its guide training program. Once conferred, tour guides would have to reapply every six months for renewal of their licenses. Under this model, there were 482 Koreans working as tour guides as of 2014.
All that changed when the previous model was abolished near the end of last year. In its stead, a quota of 200 Korean-speaking tour guides was established on September 6. Next year, the quota will be set at 150.
The 1,500-strong Koreans residing in Siam Reap, whose livelihoods are dependent on providing services to Korean tourists, have formed an emergency community council to appeal the Cambodian government’s decision.
Kim Byung Hee, a director for a local tourism company, communicated with Yonhap News via phone on September 26 and detailed the council’s responses to the tour guide quota.
“The council has sent the [South Korean] Ministry of Foreign Affairs a petition that outlines the following message, ‘We request arbitration via national means as we anticipate local Koreans to suffer serious losses.’ We also filed a request with the Cambodian government with the statement ‘Abolish the quota and legalize Korean tour guides according to Cambodian law,’” Kim said.
The council sees the quota as an attempt by the Cambodian tourism authorities to protect Cambodian citizens employed as Korean-speaking tour guides from competition. Many Cambodian tour guides catering to Koreans formerly worked in South Korea and can communicate effectively in Korean.
The influx of Korean tourists to Cambodia has been on the decline since a high of 430,000 was recorded 5 to 6 years ago. There were 330,000 Korean visitors last year according to the Ministry of Tourism. In comparison, the number of Chinese tourists grew by 1 million.
The council estimates that the economic fallout from the tour guide quota could be around 8 billion won.