Travel agencies are criticizing the government for failing to give them enough advance warning of changes in the airport exit fees at Pochentong and Siem Reap international airports.
Aviation officials last week increased the fee, called a passenger service charge, for travelers leaving Siem Reap, and decreased some of the taxes at both airports for passengers on domestic flights.
“The passenger service charge for international flights at Siem Reap will increase [from $7] to $15,” according to a statement from the Societe Concessionnaire de l’Aeroport, the company handling renovations and operations at Pochentong and Siem Reap. “However, the international charges for children under the age of 12 years will decrease from $20 to $10 [at Siem Reap] and from $15 to $7 [at Pochentong].”
Domestic flight passengers at both airports will now pay $5. Exit fees for international departures at Pochentong will remain $20 for foreigners, $15 for Cambodians.
“To ensure we satisfy the measures implemented after Sept 11, which are being enforced globally, we need to introduce additional policies,” said SCA Chairman Joel Velasque.
The increase in airport fees would be used to offset increased insurance costs after the September terrorist attacks in the US, as well as to pay for more security equipment, personnel and training, according to SCA spokesman Khek Norinda.
The government did not warn travel agencies in time, said Moeung Sonn, managing director of Eurasie Travel.
“I face complaints from my clients when I e-mail them about the increase in the Siem Reap airport tax,” he said. “The government decision was too fast for us to inform passengers about tax increase.”
Travel agencies sell packaged tours at a set price months in advance, meaning tour companies will absorb the loss.
“The government should inform travel agencies at least one to three months before an official decision,” said Sathol Myura, general director of APEX travel.
Sathol Myura admitted most of his customers probably won’t mind a slight increase in the tax.
“I believe Japanese tourists are rich. They don’t mind paying extra money for an airport tax,” he said. “They can see with their own eyes the airport renovation. They know we are poor.”
Cambodia already has one of the highest airport taxes in the region, said Meng Hieng, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agencies.
Both hotel and airline ticket rates have steadily increased as more tourists come to Cambodia, mostly to visit Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples, he said.
Thong Khon, secretary of state for the Ministry of Tourism, said the government should have informed the travel agencies at least six months before their final decision.
A decrease in the domestic flight taxes was good, he said, “but the raise will not be good.”