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‘Zero-dollar’ tours under fire

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Angkor Archaeological Park received 1.24 million foreign visitors in the first half of this year, down more than eight per cent compared to the same period last year, as ticket sales declined nine per cent to about $55 million, according to a Xinhua News Agency report. Heng Chivoan

‘Zero-dollar’ tours under fire

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon has blamed “zero-dollar” tour operators for the decrease in foreign tourists to Angkor Archaeological Park in the first half of this year and has called for action against them.

Angkor Archaeological Park received 1.24 million foreign visitors in the first half of this year, down more than eight per cent compared to the same period last year, as ticket sales declined nine per cent to about $55 million, a Xinhua News Agency report said.

During the closing ceremony of last week’s Siem Reap Tourism Master Plan Workshop, Khon said “zero-dollar” tour operators are “destroyers of tourist destinations in Siem Reap province”.

“Why were tourists in Siem Reap province down these six months? There are many factors, but one factor that we found is because of the zero cost tours."

“Zero-dollar tour operators . . . give tours without taking a profit, but they bring guests to places charging exorbitant prices on souvenirs, food and accommodations and then take commissions,” said Khon.

South Korean tourists, who used to be on top of the list of the Kingdom’s tourist arrivals, have turned to Vietnam, as it has launched new tourism policies attractive to foreign visitors, according to Khon.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents adviser Hor Vandy said the “zero-dollar” tours have upset foreigners.

He said that due to the sale of such low-cost packages, operators force visitors to buy low-quality goods at high prices and then guide them to places such as expensive shops and casinos.

“The consequence is that after the tourists return to their countries, they will say bad things about Cambodia – that it does business by selling fake products at high prices,” he said.

Pacific Asia Travel Association president Thourn Sinan said “zero-dollar” tour operators have been working in Cambodia for more than 10 years but were not entirely to blame for the drop in the number of tourists.

“I think that the zero-dollar tours really have a negative impact on the tourism sector, but is not the entire reason for the decrease in tourists to Siem Reap province,” said Sinan.

He said the Kingdom must diversify its tourism destinations to achieve the goal of receiving seven million foreign tourists this year.

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