Angkor Wat a major money spinner in Cambodia

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Angkor Archaeological Park continues to generate the bulk of tourism revenue for the country from its ticket sales, despite a hike in admission fee last year, as foreigners marvel at the iconic temple. (The Phnom Penh Post/ANN)

PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/ANN) – Angkor Archaeological Park continues to generate the bulk of tourism revenue for the country from its ticket sales, despite a hike in admission fee last year, as foreigners marvel at the iconic temple.

Angkor Archaeological Park continues to generate the bulk of tourism revenue for the country from its ticket sales, despite a hike in admission fee last year, as foreigners marvel at the iconic temple.

Local authorities managing the temple complex forecast the figures could touch US$117 million by year-end, with about 2.6 million foreigners visiting the Angkor Wat, located in Siem Reap.

The temple complex remains the top tourist dollar earner compared to two other famous world heritage sites – Preah Vihear Temple located in Preah Vihear province and the Sambor Prei Kuk Archaeological Site in Kampong Thom province.

“There was a seven percent growth in Tourist arrivals this year and visitors from 193 countries visited the temple and 43 percent of the total tourists are from China.

“Foreigners still come to see the temple heritage and during peak periods the place is packed. It is even hard to book hotel rooms,” Angkor Enterprise Executive Director Ly Se told The Post.

In February last year, authorities raised the admission fees for foreign visitors to the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) world heritage complex to US$37 for a single day entry, US$62 for a three-day ticket and US$72 for a week-long visit.

Previously, the fees were US$20, US$40 and US$60 respectively. While tourist dollars continue to flow, policymakers are working on strategies to woo more foreigners as regional tourism is becoming competitive and neighboring countries such as Thailand, and emerging Indonesia and the Philippines are aggressively promoting their own tourism products to earn tourism revenue.

Tourist arrivals at the iconic temple showed a sign of dip this year, to about seven percent growth, compared to 12 percent growth last year. Until December 20 this year, 2.55 million arrivals were recorded.

“It is very difficult for us to maintain a double-digit growth every year, people are coming to visit the temple and its unlike going shopping in places like Singapore or Malaysia. We need to expect new arrivals and have to build more infrastructure,” he added.

Authorities are turning to the power of technology, especially for the sale of entry tickets to the temple and to sustain a steady flow of tourists every year.

Se said the management is trying to ease ticket sales to Angkor Wat, by allowing hotels to sell and also promote online bookings, and test-runs are being carried out before these systems can be fully implemented.

At present, tourists need to purchase their tickets at the Angkor Enterprise complex in Siem Reap, about five kilometers drive from the temple site, which can be cumbersome as counters could be packed during peak season.

The government is also implementing the Tourism Development Strategic Master Plan 2012 to 2020 to develop the industry in provinces and cities, and attract more investments to improve infrastructure and create new tourism products.

Cambodia’s tourism sector is experiencing remarkable growth, as foreigners flock to see the country’s natural beauty and cultural attractions. Last year, the Kingdom earned US$3.63 billion in tourist revenue, a 13 percent jump compared to the previous year, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

More than three million foreign tourists arrived in the first half of this year and the government is targeting 6.2 million in 2018, and seven million visitors in 2020.

Chinese tourists top the list, followed by tourists from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and South Korea.

Last year, the total contribution of the travel and tourism sector to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) was about US$7 billion or 32.4 percent of the GDP, and the sector created about 2.67 million jobs for Cambodians.