Despite Preah Vihear temple’s addition to the World Heritage List, local tour operators say tourists have shown little interest in visiting the site and they don’t anticipate this changing anytime soon.
In 2007, less than 10 people visited Preah Vihear temple through the Siem Reap town office of international tour operator Destination Asia.
“For many tourists, it’s enough to see the temples in [Angkor] park,” Office Manager Annetta Graf said.
Destination Asia’s car and helicopter services from Siem Reap town to Preah Vihear temple start at $200 and $4,500, respectively, she said, adding that the trip takes six hours by car and 75 minutes by helicopter each way.
“The problem is the road condition—it’s still easier from the Thai side,” she said Thursday.
Tour operator Asian Trails’ Siem Reap Office Manager Huot Kheang said at most 20 people out of his organization’s 10,000 clients visited Preah Vihear temple in 2007.
Asian Trails only offers private tours to Preah Vihear temple, starting at $300.
“This temple has been registered as a World Heritage [site] for a few days only. We have to wait for October, the high season, and then answer how different it is. For now, no one is promoting,” he said.
While local tour operators said lack of hotels and lack of paved roads will continue to impede tourism to the temple, the government, however, is already hailing it as a viable tourist destination ready to take advantage of the 2 million tourists visiting Cambodia annually.
Council of Ministers spokesmanPhay Siphan disputed that the trip from Siem Reap to Preah Vihear is not more than two hours and said the roads are mostly smooth and the temple easily accessible.
With only three guesthouses in the village nearest the temple, a 30-minute motorbike ride away, Phay Siphan said that if visitors find them overbooked then there is always the possibility of camping.
“Preah Vihear temple is well known through its cultural inscription,” Phay Siphan said, arguing that tourism would quickly pick up from the attention over its placement on the World Heritage Site list.
Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said that the association will ask its 162 member companies to work to promote the temple as a tourist destination and inform its 100-plus overseas partners of the temple’s new heritage status.
He said that World Heritage status does encourage tourism, and some tour operators specifically cater to visits to such places.
He added, however, that roads, restaurants, running water and electricity are still needed before a substantial tourism industry can develop around Preah Vihear.