How accessible are heritage sites to locals?

It’s a sad irony when even the locals cannot afford the entrance fee to their own heritage sites – but that said, sites like these require revenue to maintain them and so it seems necessary to charge a fee. This story got me thinking about other sites in Southeast Asia that require fees to enter – A day-pass at Angkor is probably the most expensive, at USD20; at Borobudur the price for foreigners is USD10 and in Thailand entry to various sites cost between USD2-6. The entry to Hue is comparable at USD3 for foreigners. I don’t have a problem paying higher fees than locals, but I do wonder sometimes at these sites if the revenue goes to the maintenance of the site or to some higher-up’s pocket.

Hue Citadel visit is beyond means of many Vietnamese
Vietnam Net Bridge, 22 July 2009

Dung works on a stock breeding farm in Nghe An province. His wife is a farmer. Their two children are still in school. “Uncle Ho taught that Vietnamese people must know about Vietnam’s history,” he told us. “Our life has been tough, that’s OK, but my children need to know about Vietnam’s history. Understanding our history is knowing about our culture and origin. Here we are, my daughter and I, standing on the ground of our ancient capital, and in front of a world cultural heritage site. If my daughter fails the exams, she will return home to do farm work and get married. That’s all! Perhaps she will not ever have another chance to visit the royal citadel. I’m determined to get her to see the ancient royal palace, even if I have to borrow money to return home.”


Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

One thought on “How accessible are heritage sites to locals?”

  1. Having just come back not too long ago from one of those sites you mentioned, and having met a number of archaeologists who worked there, I was and yet wasn’t surprised to know that these sites were managed by entirely different corporations, as if they were theme parks.

    On the one hand, the same archaeologists deplored the slow erosion that millions of tourist feet and hands brought upon the monuments, erosion that the archaeological services had to prevent and restore. To make matters worse, they never even saw the revenue that was being pocketed by these enterprises. I’m only paraphrasing their words here.

    On the other hand, they were, like many of us, resigned to the fact that it was necessary – museums aside, enlivening past cultures was only possible this way. Is there no better?

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