The Foreign Affairs Ministry has called on the public and tourists not to pay e-visa fees through private tour agencies overseas because they are overcharging and cheating tourists.
Tho Samnang, deputy director-general of the legal and consular department at the ministry, said an Australian tourist recently paid $300 to apply for an e-visa through a private company overseas when the true cost is $36.
“A new case happened on Monday when an Australian tourist paid $300 for an e-visa,” Mr Samnang said. “Our ministry has only one official website which issues e-visas and we charge only $36.”
He said tourists should avoid using the website cambodiaimmigration.org because it cheats travellers. He noted the official website is evisa.gov.kh.
Mr Samnang said that in 2017, the ministry found seven overseas private tour agencies helping tourists apply for e-visas. He noted that the ministry has advised Cambodian embassies overseas not to issue e-visas to agents from the agencies.
“There was one website charging a tourist $90 in 2016 but they could not issue the e-visa and then they forwarded those documents to our ministry. So we detected their IP address and we did not issue e-visas for them because if we allow other websites to be able to issue e-visas, charges will be higher,” Mr Samnang said. “If the fee for e-visas is expensive, tourists will complain to our embassies abroad and then they will decide not to visit Cambodia.”
“If the visa fee is high, they will write negative comments on the website,” he added.
Mr Samnang said Cambodian officials were unable to block all websites cheating travellers because their IP addresses are located in other countries.
“We cannot block them because their locations are not in Cambodia,” he said.
He noted that when tourists search for Cambodian e-visas, the cheating websites pop up and some tourists do not know that they are not official sites nor that they are paying the wrong fees.
He noted that the travel agency websites offer easier payment than the official government website.
“Recently, we have just signed an agreement with Bank of China to open two more payment methods, Alipay and WeChat payment,” Mr Samnang said.
Ouch Borith, a secretary of state at the Foreign Ministry, declined to comment, but recently told local media that some people have created fake websites to process visas for foreign travellers who want to visit the Kingdom.
Mr Borith appealed to the public and all tourists not to apply for e-visas through websites other than the official government site.
Ho Vandy, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Tourism Alliance, said the government’s technology should be updated.
“The ministry should monitor if our system does not work well, or if there is any cheating because if there are a lot of cheating cases, it will affect the ministry’s reputation,” Mr Vandy said. “Second, we should look at our technology if it is not updated enough. When cheating cases occurs, our embassies should immediately intervene in order to provide trust.”
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said authorities should prevent private companies from running e-visa services.
“If there are private agents running such services, it will affect fees because they will charge higher fees and it will impact tourists’ feelings,” Ms Sivlin said.
Kong Sophearak, director of Tourism Ministry’s Statistic Department, said that a number of foreign travellers applying for e-visas remains very low.
“I think a number of tourists using e-visas is still low because we have visas on arrival. Most tourists have been aware of visas on arrival, so they don’t care about e-visas,” Mr Sophearak said. “I think this issues does not have a big impact on the tourism.”