The government has decided to limit free foreign guest passes to the Angkor temple complex, although the specific details of the quota are yet to be worked out, officials said Sunday.
“If we do not limit the free entrances, it could be up to 6,000 and 7,000 guests per year,” said Bun Narith, newly appointed president of the Apsara Authority, which oversees maintenance of the park.
Because of the lost revenues from so many free passes, the government has decided to limit the annual number of free passes to 3,000, said Sokha Hotel Manager Svay Vuthy.
Sokha Hotel is a joint venture of petroleum giant Sokimex and the Apsara Authority. Sokimex oversees ticket concessions for the government. They split the first $3 million in revenue and the government takes 70 percent of anything above that.
The 3,000 pass limit is still subject to approval by Apsara Authority, said Tourism Minister Veng Sereyvuth.
Bun Narith said the new quota will only allow free visits for groups or delegations of guests invited by the government.
The free passes will last for only two days at a time, while permitted researches, archeologists and anthropologists will be allowed to visit the park for free for between six months and a year, according to the new government directive.
Officials at Apsara are not yet clear on how to divide the allotted passes among the government ministries, although the Ministry of Tourism will have priority, and the rest will go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Culture, Defense, and among Siem Reap provincial and national delegations, Bun Narith said.
In the past, thousands of visitors to the park pretended to be guests of the government to get free passes, Svay Vuthy said.
The new government directive, which was an agreement between the government and Sokimex, formally went into effect late last month.
The free passes program were originally designed to promote tourism to Angkor Wat, Veng Sereyvuth said.
The ministry will probably use most of its allotted passes for foreign writers who could write about the temples to promote their worldwide popularity, Veng Sereyvuth said.
The number of visitors to the ancient temples, some of which date back to the 8th Century, has consistently risen each year.