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Call to lift expat fees to Angkor site

Asian tourists walk around the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park in June 2014.
Asian tourists walk around the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park in June 2014. Hong Menea

Call to lift expat fees to Angkor site

A tourism industry work group has called for the government to drop entry fees to Angkor Wat Archaeological Park for several hundred expats living in Siem Reap and who work in the tourism sector.

Luu Meng, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Working Group on Tourism, said yesterday the group plans to submit a request to Cambodia’s tourism minister to allow the estimated 500 local tourism-industry expats living in Siem Reap free entry to the World Heritage Site.

He said these individuals, who have already visited Angkor Wat, would be more likely to escort visiting foreign tourists to the archaeological park if they did not have to pay entrance fees.

Meng said removing the financial disincentive for these expat to visit Angkor Wat would result in a greater net gain in ticket sales from paying foreign tourists, who are more likely to spend more time in Siem Reap as a result.

“We will not lose revenue, but instead we will get more revenue by having more foreign tourists stay longer in the province,” he said.

Meng said expats make ideal ambassadors to their visiting compatriots.

“People tend to trust people of the same nationality when they go abroad,” he said. “Expats who work in tourism industry here will be a good channel to approach foreign tourists to stay longer.”

Meng said the working group’s team members have already discussed the proposal unofficially with Tourism Ministry officials. They have suggested that expats be provided to show their work permits at the park gates in order to obtain free entry.

Speaking at a tourism seminar in Phnom Penh yesterday, Tourism Minister Thong Khon said expats working on projects to conserve or restore the temples at Angkor Wat were currently allowed to enter the site for free. However, the ministry has never considered extending the free entrance to expats in the Tourism Ministry.

“If they suggest it to us, we will take it for consideration,” he said. “But I cannot confirm now whether or not we will give the permission.”

Ho Vandy, deputy secretary-general of Cambodia’s National Tourism Alliance, said the proposal offered a good opportunity to utilise expats working in the tourism sector in order to encourage tourists to spend more time in Siem Reap. However, he cautioned that steps must be taken to ensure that this does not affect the work of Cambodian tour guides.

“If expats can enter the zone freely and they play role instead of our guides and introduce incorrect information about our temples to foreign tourists, it will have a [negative impact],” he said.

The Angkor Institution, the agency that manages ticketing for Angkor Wat Archaeological Park, announced early this month that it would nearly double the entrance fee that foreigners must pay for one-day visits to the ancient temple complex. Starting February 1, 2017, the cost of the one-day pass will increase to $37, from $20, it said.

Ticket prices will also rise for a three-day pass to $62, from the current $40, while a week-long visit pass – valid over a one-month period – will cost $72, from the current $60.

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