Business leaders in the tourism sector have expressed deep dissatisfaction with the recent increase in ticket prices for Kampong Thom’s archeological site Sambor Prei Kuk, arguing that the price hike comes too soon after the temples were given word heritage status by Unesco, and have called on the authorities to reverse the move.
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The National Authority for Sambor Prei Kuk announced last month that the admission fee for Sambor Prei Kuk will be raised from $3 to $10 for foreigners starting on January 1.
Sambor Prei Kuk, known as Ishanapura in Sanskrit, is the ancient capital of the Chenla Empire. The temple was listed as a Unesco word heritage site in July this year.
Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA), told Khmer Times that it is too early to raise ticket prices for the temple complex, arguing that the move will hurt tour operators who usually design their tour packages as early as six months in advance and now cannot change their prices to account for the new entrance fee.
“The authorities should have waited at least one year to raise the price to accommodate the needs of tour operators,” Mr Sinan said.
Chhay Sivlin, the president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), shared the same sentiment.
“The increase has been too dramatic. Too fast and too soon. It will hurt tour operators, with their partners probably cutting Sambor Prei Kuk altogether from their packages,” Ms Sivlin said.
She said that the National Authority should give at least six months’ notice before taking such measures.
Representatives of the National Authority, however, said the move will not have a significant impact on businesses.
Phann Nady, the director general of the institution, said proper due diligence and research was conducted before settling on the new price. Research showed that the new fee is “acceptable”, Mr Nady said.
The research process included surveying foreign visitors travelling in the kingdom, he said.
Mr Nady also defended the move, arguing that Sambor Prei Kuk boasts hundreds of temples, and that tourists will not mind paying $10 to access such a vast complex. He also said the price was reasonable when compared with similar historical sites in the region.
“The new price will help us increase revenue which we will use to provide better services to visitors,” he added.
According to the National Authority, 3,000 to 4,000 foreign tourists visited the complex every month on average this year, about 100 to 200 visitors per day.
Sambor Prei Kuk comprises 290 historical sites and locations and dates back to the late sixth and early seventh centuries.
The vestiges of the city cover 25 square kilometres and include a walled city centre as well as numerous temples, 10 of which are octagonal, unique specimens of their genre in Southeast Asia. Decorated sandstone elements in the site are characteristic of the pre-Angkor era, known as the Sambor Prei Kuk style.