Tourism Minister Thong Khon said on Sunday he did not believe an upcoming hike in the cost of tickets for foreigners visiting Angkor Wat will cause fewer tourists to come to Cambodia, with surveys showing most who visit the country are prepared to pay more.
The government in November took over ticket sales for the Angkor Archaeological Park from businessman Sok Kong’s Sokimex group. The body it created to manage the sales, the Angkor Institution, announced new prices for foreign visitors on Friday.
A one-day ticket will increase from $20 to $37, a three-day ticket from $40 to $62 and a seven-day ticket will go from $60 to $72. Two dollars from each ticket will go to the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital, which provides free treatment to Cambodian children.
The new prices for foreigners are set to come into effect February 1. Entry to the park will remain free for Cambodians.
Mr. Khon told the Thmey Thmey news service on Sunday that the time was ripe for a price increase after years of inflation had whittled away the value of income from each ticket.
“Twenty dollars from 1994 equals $35 now…so the value of the money has been going down for 20 years already,” Mr. Khon said.
“Secondly, we did a survey with tourists—such as at the airports—and they said Angkor is very wonderful, so the prices could be raised. And the big travel agents in other countries told us that our prices are very inexpensive compared to other places,” he said.
“At other places, it’s $80, $70 or $60 for one day at one temple, whereas in our country, they pay only $35 plus $2 [to Kantha Bopha] and they can visit 27 temples that are big—like Angkor, Bayon, Ta Prom, Banteay Srey and other temples, so it’s not very expensive.”
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said he feared the price increase would make things harder for the 600 travel agencies he represents when they negotiate with travel agents abroad to put together travel packages.
“It could make guests who have already made bookings feel surprised, and it could be a bit difficult for travel agents to negotiate with their overseas partners to increase the prices,” Mr. Sivlin said.
“I, on behalf of all travel agents in Cambodia, would like to request an extension of one year to the date for the implementation of new prices.”
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, which oversees the body that manages the Angkor Archaeological Park, said he believed tourists would understand the price increase.
“Compared with the world’s other cultural heritage sites, like the Palais in France and the Pyramids, the Angkor Wat tickets are cheaper,” Mr. Siphan said.
“I see it won’t affect the number of tourists who visit because…the prices are still lower than other heritage sites. And secondly, part of the increase means they will be participating in taking care of Cambodian children.”