Minister of Tourism Lay Prohas Monday condemned tentative plans put forward by the government’s Apsara Authority to require all tourists visiting Angkor Wat to purchase disposable plastic slippers.
Lay Prohas was responding to talks he said have occurred between Apsara and South Korean firm CCK Corporation over CCK’s plan to sell mandatory $3.80 plastic slippers to all visitors to Angkor Wat. The slippers would cost $4.56 with tax, said Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents.
“My ministry will reject any plan aimed at asking foreigners for money for a pair of anti-erosion shoes to walk in Angkor,” Lay Prohas said. “I don’t see any country in the world using this method to protect stone,” he said.
Lay Prohas said the pricey compulsory footwear would deter some tourists. To address concerns that the stone walkways of the Angkor temples are being worn away, Lay Prohas proposed laying outdoor carpets on them instead.
He also said that a plan to burn the used “anti-erosion” slippers daily would pollute the environment.
Apsara Director-General Bun Narith said no contract has been signed with the Korean firm, though talks are now at the cost stage. “The negotiation is on price,” he said. “The Korean company wants to sell at a high price but it is not acceptable.”
He said Apsara, which manages Angkor, would like to start a temporary trial of the slippers in three months time, but would first consult the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization about whether the slippers would stem erosion.
Ho Vandy said that if slippers are necessary, a local rather than a foreign firm should make them.
In June 2005, Apsara Authority Deputy Director General Tep Henn said the slipper contract with CCK had been signed “a long time ago” and that only the details were still being worked out. CCK officials could not be reached for comment.