Angkor Ticket Sales Take Hit From SARS

Ticket sales at the Angkor temples dropped dramatically in May compared with numbers reported earlier this year, but the complex’s overall revenue has not yet suffered a direct blow due to severe acute respiratory syndrome’s strangling of the tourism industry, said an Apsara Authori­ty tourism official on Tuesday.

“We collected $3.4 million from January to April 2002, and the same period this year has collected $3.7 million from ticket fees,” said Apsara Authority General Director Bun Narith.

Despite the positive start, Ang­kor Wat may not be able to reach its earning potential this year. Due to potential visitors’ fears surrounding travel and the spread of SARS, April saw a 40 percent decrease in ticket sales compared to the number of admissions sold in April 2002, Bun Narith said. (In April the authority counted 13,529 visitors to the temples, about 8,000 fewer visitors than the same month last year.)

A sharp decrease in the number of tourists entering Angkor Wat in May is indicative of the psychological effects SARS has had on tourists, Bun Narith said.

“I am sure we don’t have SARS. But…the psychology of the issue is scaring people and has an on­going effect on tourism, especially in Siem Reap,” Bun Narith said.

Although Apsara’s earnings dropped dramatically in the last two months, the revenue made so far has not suffered as badly as other tourist outfits, due to a heavy in­flux of tourists to Siem Reap earlier this year.

The temples have seen a steady increase of visitors, year to year. The authority said 39,809 tourists came in January, a 30 percent increase from the Jan­uary 2002 number, which totaled 30,579.

Apsara Authority figures show that this year’s ticket sales are only slightly lower than last year’s sales. Admission to the Angkor complex was sold to 127,689 tourists this year between Jan 1 and May 17. Apsara sold 128,460 tickets in the same period last year.

The rapid growth seen earlier in the year suffered from a sharp decrease in visitors after SARS was reported to the world at the end of February.

As fear of SARS spread, the number of visitors began to decline. By March, the number of visitors compared with the year before had dropped from 33,007 to 31,673.

A total of 315,687 visitors ar­rived in Siem Reap in 2002, earning the region approximately $9 million, Bun Narith said. Apsara Authority reaped 10 percent of the earnings, to be used for the com­plex’s conservation and de­velopment. The government earned 75 percent of the money, while 25 percent went to Soki­mex’s Sokha Hotel, which makes an average of $2.5 million a year, he said.

Siem Reap Governor Chap Nha­lyvudh said SARS’ effect on the prov­ince, especially the town, has been far-reaching. Restaur­ants, gift shops and guest houses are quiet, he said, noting concerns that the loss of jobs in the area may incite an increase in robberies.

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