Visitors to Cambodia will need to tuck away a little more cash next year if they want to visit the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat in the country’s northwest.
With foreign tourist numbers steadily increasing Cambodian authorities have decided that the current US$20 charged for foreigners (Khmer are admitted free) to visit the 12th century ruins is insufficient. As from February next year the daily ticket price will increase by a whopping 85 per cent to $37, while the prices for a three-day and a seven-day visitor’s pass will increase from the current $40 and $60 to $62 and $72 respectively
The price hike comes after the government took over ticketing duties from private company Sokimex in November last year and established The Angkor Agency to manage ticket sales in its place.
While travel and tour operators are concerned that the steep price rise will affect the number of visitors to the complex, Cambodia’s premier tourist attraction, the country’s Tourism Minister Thong Khon, isn’t losing any sleep over the matter. In an interview with the Thmey Thmey news service the minister said he is not worried that the price increase will affect tourism.
Highlighting that the cost of entrance hasn’t risen since 1994, Mr Khon said “$20 from 1994 equals $35 now… so the value of the money has been going down for 20 years already”.
In any event, “we did a survey with tourists – such as at the airports – and they said Angkor is very wonderful, so the prices could be raised he said, adding that “big travel agents in other countries told us that our prices are very inexpensive compared to other places.
“At other places, it’s $80, $70 or $60 for one day at one temple, whereas in our country, they pay only $35 plus $2 (to Kantha Bopha, a Swiss-owned children’s hospital that provides free treatment to Cambodian children) and they can visit 27 temples that are big—like Angkor, Bayon, Ta Prom, Banteay Srey and other temples, so it’s not very expensive,” he said.
Angkor Wat price rise stuns tourism sector
While the government believes the giant increase in prices to make up for 20 years of poor governance will not affect visitor numbers, those involved in Cambodia’s tourism industry are not convinced.
Ho Vandy, secretary-general of Cambodia’s National Tourism Alliance, to the Phnom Penh Post he was “shocked by the price increase. “Why did we raise the ticket price to such a high level like this?”
Similar sentiments were echoed by Khieu Thy, president of the Angkor Tour Guide Association, who told Voice of America (VOA) Cambodia that the new ticket prices will make Cambodia less attractive to foreign tourists.
“Neighbouring countries are trying to lower their process and even give visa exemptions… while Cambodia has no attractive services, and now we are increasing the price. This further limits how competitive we are and will cause criticism from visitors,” he said.
Also joining in the criticism is Luu Meng, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Working Group on Tourism (GPSWG) who said: “When prices go up like this it affects visitor’s feelings, so we need to show them the quality products and services they will received from the increased price,” he said. For instance, according to him, there should be a guarantee of better hygiene and cleanliness at the site.
In favour of the price hike though is Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, which oversees the Angkor Archaeological Park who told The Cambodian Daily that compared to other cultural heritage sites, like the Palais in France and the Pyramids in Egypt, “the Angkor tickets are cheaper”.
“I see it won’t affect the number of tourists who visit because… the prices are still lower than other heritage sites. And secondly, part of the increase means they will be participating in taking care of Cambodian children”, he added.
The Cambodia tourism industry
The Cambodia tourism industry is the country’s second largest source of hard currency after the textile industry. In 2015 tourism earned the country about $3 billion from about 4.78 million foreign visitors, equivalent to about 13 per cent of Cambodia GDP (See: Cambodia Visitor Numbers up in First Six Months)
Angkor Wat generated more than $31 million in ticket sales from foreign visitors in the first half of 2016, a 1.7 per cent increase over the same period last year. In 2015 ticket sales topped $60 million from 2.1 million foreign visitors, while in 2014 ticket sales grossed some $59.3 million from 2.05 million foreign visitors.
Aside from Angkor Wat, other popular tourist destinations in Cambodia are sites associated with the country’s grim past – the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Killing Fields at Choeung Ek – the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, the sleepy town of Battambang, the beaches in Sihanoukville, and the Bokor Hill Station in Kampot.
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- Angkor Wat ticket price hike could hurt visitor numbers: experts (The Phnom Penh Post
- Cambodia Hikes Angkor Wat Ticket Prices (VOA)
- Angkor Wat Ticket Prices Set to Rise After Government Takeover (The Cambodia Daily)