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Tours 'no threat to temple guides'

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Tourists will be soon be able to appreciate the history and beauty of temples with an audio connection to their tour guide. Photo by: VO THI HUONG LAN

NEW audio devices allowing tour guides to communicate directly with their customers will soon be available at Siem Reap’s hotels and travel agencies, according to the team behind Angkor Audio Tours.

Adopting the new audio devices will allow tour companies to better manage groups of visitors to Cambodia’s temples, according to Antenna International chief technology officer Gary Pound, the company behind the Angkor Tours initiative.

“The benefit of the Angkor Audio Tour devices is that they can be used to manage group tours better by allowing greater communication.

“Tour guides will now be able to keep their group together and will no longer have to shout. Tourist experiences that feel too noisy or overcrowded are not beneficial to the industry,” he said.

Developed in-house by Antenna International, the devices were licensed for use by Phnom Penh based holding company, the Hong Yang Corporation, which runs Angkor Audio Tours. Antenna International also supplies audio and multimedia devices to 450 leading historic sites around the world including the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Using radio technology,  the iPod-sized devices allow guides to speak into a microphone and communicate with group members up to 50 metres away, a distance that Sou Phirin joked will cut down on shouting by Korean and Chinese tourists at temple sites.

Fabrice Brechet, the CEO of the Hong Yang Corporation, told attendees at the product launch that the idea was a long time coming.

“Five year ago the idea to provide audio tours in Siem Reap was first discussed. Now we are introducing for the first time in Cambodia an exceptional service used at many of the most valued sites in the world including the Taj Mahal and the Statue of Liberty. Angkor Audio Tours will now enhance the visitor experience to one of the wonders of the world, the magnificent Angkor temple site.”

During his address, Pound denied that the audio devices would put tour guides out of work by providing recorded audio commentaries for tourists.

“No guides will lose their jobs. The device is a way of improving the visitor management system at the Angkor temples. This time next year we hope all that is special about Angkor will remain unchanged, but that its multitude of international visitors will be visiting the sites in a new, more managed way.”

After the launch, tour guide Ay Pharinin told The Phnom Penh Post she was concerned that in future the audio devices could give historical commentaries to tourists, causing many to opt out of hiring a tour guide.

She said: “In the short term the device might be all right. However, I just worry that if the audio company releases a recorded version of the Angkor history programme it will mean that visitors do not need guides to explain it and we will see a reduction in the number employed.”

Apsara Authority deputy director General Mey Marady reassured tour guides that their jobs were safe.

“On behalf of Apsara Authority I would like to inform you that conservation and development have to be linked to each other, to make sure that they don’t work at cross-purposes. Tour guides should not be concerned about these devices because we will protect your jobs like we protect the temples.”

German tour guide Paul Voleak sounded a more optimistic note when he spoke to The Post, remarking that the new devices would make his job a lot easier.

“I’m really excited by this idea and happy to work with the audio devices during my tours,” he said.

“I usually take group tours of around 20 to 25 visitors and during my time with them I have to expend a lot of energy speaking loudly in order to be heard. The sound can annoy other visitors and sometimes my group gets bored if they can’t hear me properly.”

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