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Ticketing at temple defended

A view of Angkor Wat earlier this year
A view of Angkor Wat earlier this year. Accusations that managerial control of the Angkor temple complex has been granted to Sokha Hotel was denied by the Apsara Authority. Hong Menea

Ticketing at temple defended

The Apsara Authority has clarified the details of its controversial profit-sharing deal with Sokha Hotels, a company owned by hotel tycoon Sok Kong that has the ticket-selling rights to Siem Reap’s temple complex.

A letter released on Tuesday in response to questions over the temple complex’s management and ticket sales says that Sokha Hotels is contracted only to provide ticket revenue collection services.

It states that revenue from each ticket sold is divided into 20 per cent VAT, 15 per cent goes towards conservation and development of the temple complex, 15 per cent goes to Sokha Hotels and the remaining 50 per cent to the government.

“Apsara Authority does not hire out the temples to Sokha Hotel. In fact, the authority only hired the company to provide ticket revenue collection services on our behalf – a common action that public administrations or governments in other countries have also implemented,” the letter dated November 25 reads.

“The company [Sokha Hotels] pays the revenue from ticket sales directly to the National Treasury in the Ministry of Economy & Finance and does not go through the Apsara Authority,” the letter states.

The letter comes after opposition lawmakers questioned Tourism Minister Thong Khon last week over the lack of transparency surrounding ticket sales to the Angkor Archaeological Park and the amount shared with Cambodia’s national budget.

The Apsara Authority, which oversees business operations at Cambodia’s biggest tourism draw, handed over the ticket sales responsibilities to Sokha Hotels in 1999. Sokha Hotels is a subsidiary of Sok Kong’s Sokimex Group.

“Revenue collection over the past years has been improved to achieve efficient outcomes,” the letter reasons.

Siem Reap welcomed some 1.7 million foreign tourists over the first nine months of this year, up 10.6 per cent compared with the same period last year. The Apsara Authority reported gross revenue from ticket sales for 2014 reached $47 million at the end of October. Ticket sales totalled $57.6 million in 2013 and $51 million in 2012.

As a condition of the agreement, Sokha Hotels is also reportedly obliged to invest more than $700,000 in local infrastructure projects every year.

Yem Ponhearith, an opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party parliamentarian and the National Assembly’s chairman of the education, religious, culture and tourism committee last week called on the government to give the Ministry of Tourism control over the temple complex’s ticket sales and revenue.

Contacted yesterday, Ponhearith said he welcomed the letter from the Apsara Authority, but that full transparency means detailing the monetary figures and to what part of the budget they were allocated.

“I have seen the letter. But, in fact, we just see to the total revenue, they don’t show the detail of the revenue sharing,” he said. “We need to know, how much goes to the government? And how much goes to the company? As we know the government spends a lot of money to attract tourists.”

The Tourism Minister yesterday said he had no plans to take control of the Siem Reap temple complex.

“We still want Apsara Authority handle it because they have done a lot of work to manage and preserve the temple,” Khon said.

“The Apsara Authority has been cooperating with many other international institutions, like the ICC [the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor]. If the money from ticket sales is not properly managed, other international institutions will blame us,” he added.

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