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Capital feels pinch on Angkor flights

Capital feels pinch on Angkor flights

The renewal of the special agreement to allow direct flights from Thailand to Siem

Reap by Bangkok Airways has been condemned by the tourism industry.

The Ministry of Tourism has recently extended Bangkok Airways agreement till December

1999.

But tourism operators and travel agents have renewed their objections to the practice

which they say encourages tourists to fly in to see Angkor Wat and then ignore the

rest of the country.

Chung Chansophea, Secretary General of Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA)

and the president of Apsara Tours said that her members are concerned that the real

beneficiaries of the agreement are foreign tourism operators who are selling packages.

She said her members could at least move their business to Siem Reap if things became

too tight in Phnom Penh but she said this was not an option for companies such as

restaurants and hotels which had invested heavily in buildings and equipment.

President of the National Syndicate of Tourist Enterprises and the Organization for

Conservation and Rehabilitation of Endangered Flora Fauna of Cambodia, Moeung Sonn,

said that the direct flights from Bangkok means less money is coming into the country

especially for Royal Air Cambodge, a joint venture with the government.

Sonn estimated that nearly $8 million has been lost since the flights started because

people are not traveling through Phnom Penh, where previously they would often stay

for a day or two enroute to Siem Reap.

Meng Hieng the managing director of Pich Tourist company said the end result will

be a disproportionate amount of tourist spending will be concentrated in Siem Reap

rather than spread throughout the country.

"I don't want Phnom Penh to be the second city in Cambodia" he said.

He said he was also concerned that the direct flights were really just charter flights

and did not require the airline to invest in infrastructure like Siem Reap airport.

But not all tourism operators want the flights stopped immediately.

Tan Sotho director of Hanuman tourism-voyages said that starting the flights created

ructions in the travel industry and to suddenly shut them down would create another

fuss.

She added that they were now trying to capitalize on the flights by arranging package

tours of Phnom Penh from Siem Reap aimed at travelers who have only a short time

to visit.

"Some tourists just have time to see Angkor and they have only a short time

to visit Phnom Penh so we are making a tourist promotion in Siem Reap.

Kim Chay Heang first deputy of Siem Reap Tourist department said that about 35 to

40% of the tourists who go directly to Siem Reap are also going on to other parts

of Cambodia, particularly Phnom Penh.

He added that there was also a notable interest in ecotourism and tourists seem to

be becoming more interested in visiting places like Ratanakiri, Kratie and Koh Kong

in addition to visiting the important cultural sites.

"The important thing is that the government's policy encourages all tourists,"

he said.

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