Talent with experience but without sufficient training and education – By Outhanvatey

RTR TOURS established in 1996, is known as one of the oldest local tourism companies in Cambodia. RTR tour emphasizes the provision of high-quality services of hospitality.
We asked Ms. By Outhanvatey, the Managing Director of the company about the current situation and prospects of Cambodia's tourism industry. (Interviewed at: August, 2017)

Interviewee Profile

By Outhanvatey: Managing Director of RTR TOURS.

Provide service with quality based on 21 years of experiences

Could you introduce yourself and your company?

I am By Outhanvatey, the Managing Director and a shareholder of RTR Tour. Our company was founded in 1996 and this year we are celebrating 21 years in business.
We provide services across a wide range. We support Cambodian overseas travel (outbound tours) and Cambodian trip for foreigners (inbound tours), and offer services such as air and bus tickets, visas, passports, hotel bookings, tours and more.

Over the past years, our company has been expanding and we recently opened a new branch in July. Sales are increasing especially on inbound tours too.
I joined this company a year ago. Although I had management experience, it was not in the tourist industry. I am a newcomer, but I am encouraged to study and learn about this industry, now I am also a shareholder and a manager.


Could you tell us the strengths of your company?

“Quality”, “Trusted brand”, and “Loyal customers” are our strengths. If it is a trusted brand, you must value quality. To improve quality, we need a lot of experience.
We are one of the oldest travel agents and tour operators in Cambodia, most of the Cambodians know about our company. During the 21 years in the business, there were many problems and barriers. Because of such experiences, we have grown to be very good at solving problems and finding solutions.

Our company focuses on quality, we are not known for cheap prices. Our customers come to us because they choose quality over price in the market. There are many returning customers and loyal customers among our clients. More than 50% of all clients are returning customers.


To explore attraction for the low season

The Cambodian government is aiming at increasing foreign tourists up to 7 million and economic result with 5 billion dollars.

To increase these targets, what does the tourism industry need to focus on?

The first is hospitality, this is a point that we are constantly focusing on. Hospitality begins right at the beginning, starting from clients making their travel reservations, applying visa on arrival, any other services, etc. These little things matter, and after-service is also a huge factor.

The second point is promotion as a country at the government level. The Ministry of Tourism has already made various achievements, but many tourists visiting Cambodia think that there is only Angkor Wat to visit in Cambodia. Cambodia is full of other attractive tourist resources, but many people travel to Cambodia for one day and then move to the neighboring countries, because they think there is nothing else to do here. I think we are missing opportunities in this way. It is possible to add further value to other tourism resources. I think that we need more activities, but it is difficult to find creative things to do, this is also a challenge for us.

The third point is to create a friendly environment for tourists. As many people in Cambodia especially in the tourist area have basic English skills, there is no problem regarding the language and communications. One thing we can do that our neighboring countries do is to be more tourist friendly. Such as leaving the tourist police’s phone number in all taxis, tuk-tuk, and any other tourist oriented spots. This is to protect the tourists and to provide them a sense of security.

The fourth point is connectivity between the international airports. Cambodia has not developed many direct flights with other countries, in most cases you will require transit at Bangkok or Singapore. This will increase travel time and is not good for tourism.
Emirates has started a direct flight between Phnom Penh and Yangon then on to Dubai in July this year. After this route became available, we have more tourists and business travels between the two countries. Before this direct flight, the Phnom Penh Yangon route took 7 to 8 hours including transit in Thailand/ Singapore and now it is only a two-hour flight.

In addition to opening direct flights, I think that expansion of the airport is also necessary. The government is currently expanding Phnom Penh International Airport and planning to expand Siem Reap Airport. We hope this happens soon because tourism is concentrated in that area.

The last point is promotion by the season. In Cambodia, many tourists visit during the high season which is from September to March, between April and August during the low season, the number of tourists drop. This is also because it is the rainy season in Cambodia. Between June to August, there are holidays in European countries, so we get more tourists from Europe visiting the country. However, in recent years, the number of tourists from the area has decreased due to political problems in the European region.

Since everything drops during the low season, we need to find new attractions, ways to get more tourists to our country, it can be something like hosting international meetings or trade shows and expos.


Tourism industry talent is in the shortage

The government aims to educate 50,000 tourism experts every year by 2025. There are also calls for lack of staff and improvement in education.

Could you tell us about current situation and problems concerning the talent of the tourism industry?

I think that human resource is a problem which must be solved right now. Even at our company, we have a hard time to find the right people. Especially in the high season, all travel companies will secure talented people, so there will be overdemand and there may be competition to secure talent. This is happened even in outsourcing.

In our case, the management level is stable, but the staff under the management level is not stable, we have people resigning after a short time here, the reason is the balance in number of travel agencies and the shortage of human resources.

There are many travel agencies in Cambodia, but the talent is not proportional to the number of agencies and the salary will also be higher, companies will propose a higher salary to get talented people from other companies by head hunting. As a result, people who have experiences, but do not receive sufficient training or education will grow.

Companies who put in efforts to train fresh graduate will suffer because by the time the staff are ready to work solo, some company will come and take them for a better salary.
Sales consulting and travel consulting are required to understand customer’s demand and to provide packages suitable for each customer. They can’t just sell a product, we must understand the demands from the client.

We strive to improve the expertise of all staff at our company. We also need appropriate human resources who can consult the clients. The government has announced vocational training for guides, but I think we need to develop human resource training in travel agencies and tour operators too. In addition to developing human resources, strengthening of language is an important point for future development of the tourism industry.

Cambodian overseas travel expanding

Could you tell us the current situation of domestic and overseas trips for Cambodians?

Surprisingly, the number of Cambodians who travel abroad has increased a lot. According to the statistics issued by the Ministry of Tourism, the number of overseas travelers in April this year increased by 20% from 176,971 people in 2016. In July, 123,329 travelled, which was an increase by 15% from the same period in 2016.

The factors of the increase in numbers are stability of the economy and stability of the political environment in Cambodia. In the past, people still had some doubts, they were not sure when the country would collapse again or perhaps they had fear to when the war would resume, many citizens just want a safety zone and they seem to prefer saving more than spending. However, in the recent years, the trust for the country began to rise, and people put more emphasis on their quality of life. They begin to focus more on spending time with their families and on how to spend vacations. If the political environment continues to be stable, the number of tourists to overseas will continue to increase.


What destinations are popular among Cambodian people?

Ten years ago, people went to Vietnam, Bangkok and Malaysia, but tourist spots have also expanded to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Dubai lately. Citizens are constantly seeking new places to travel to.

Popular tourist spots depend on individual budgets, but at Khmer New Year in 2016, Cambodians traveling to Japan and Korea had increased. If they are on a low budget, neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand are popular, and if they have a little more, Malaysia and Singapore are popular, for travelers with higher budget, they will choose to go to Hong Kong, China, and Macao. Or if they wish to spend more, they will go to Korea and Japan. Those who can afford further budget will visit countries such as USA, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

For domestic destinations, mountainous areas such as Siem Reap, Mondulkiri, Rattanakiri, and coastal areas such as Sihanoukville, Koh Kong, and Bokor are popular tourist spots. Siem Reap and the coastal areas are becoming more popular for group travel of 200 to 300 people, such as company trips.


How about foreign tourists?

In our case, the number of tourists from European countries are decreasing. We think that it is caused by political problems and consumption power in the European region. Meanwhile, the number of visitors from Singapore and Malaysia are increasing, but their travel purpose differs from general tourists. Travelers from those regions are generally MICE (Meeting Incentive Tour Conference Exhibition) related.


Respond to the needs from our customers

What kind of role does your company want to play in the future?

We would like to continue to provide services that place a great emphasis on quality. We also want to look for creativity, we would like to develop travel packages that match each age group such as active tours for youth and safe tours for the elderly.
We also aim to be a professional travel consultant and specialists who can convey the charm of Cambodia to overseas travelers. We would like to continue making efforts as a consultant that can meet each of their needs regardless of groups, individuals, or people with handicaps.

    • Description of Business : Travel and Tours Services