TTR Weekly, 11 April 2017: Revenue has risen, as expected, but also, the number of visitors has risen as well.
Ticket sales revenue earned from foreigners visiting Angkor Wat archaeological park reached USD30.85 million during January to March, this year, up 51.6% compared with the same period last year.
Khmer Times quoted figures released by the state-owned, Angkor Institution, which is in charge of ticket sales at the World Heritage site.
The report also claimed the number of foreign visitors to the World Heritage site rose 8.95% to 764,146 in the first quarter of 2017, compared to the same period last year.
The government plans to limit the number of visitors who will be allowed access to Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java, to only 15 at any given time, an official said on Tuesday (30/08).
State-run Antara news agency quoted Nadjamuddin Ramly, the director of heritage and cultural diplomacy at the Ministry of Education and Culture, as saying that there are concerns about the preservation of the ninth-century Mahayana Buddhist temple. He said the Unesco World Heritage Site often receives hundreds of visitors, who all enter the at the same time, which may affect the building’s structural integrity.
He said the government will issue a regulation that limits the number of people allowed to enter at any given time. The figure of 15 is based on research data related to the structural capacity of the building.
Travelers visiting Borobudur Temple in Central Java should avoid touching and stepping on the temple’s stupa in order to preserve one of the world’s most sacred heritage sites.
Borobudur Conservation Agency public relations officer Mura told tempo.co that authorities had consistently warned tourists through the loudspeaker regarding the matter.
“Touching the stupa can cause damage to the temple. Although it’s made from stone, it can be broken. The bottom part of the stupa has become soft and it lost its original shape due to being touched repeatedly by tourists,” said Mura while showing a palm print that had corroded the temple’s stone.
Borobudur was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. Built in the 8th century, it is the biggest Buddhist monument in the world.
The Myanmar Department of Archaeology reports that a number of hotel developments around and near the Bagan temples are on hold while the site is being prepare for Unesco World Heritage nomination. This is welcome news especially since zoning requirements in the temple areas have not been enforced until recently.
Over 40 hotel projects in the Bagan Ancient Cultural Region have been delayed since 2013, while their construction permits are reviewed.
Global New Light of Myanmar quoted Department of Archaeology director, U Zaw Zaw Htun, saying the department was reviewing the situation.
“The answer will only be realised once we’ve completed our negotiations with UNESCO for the recognition of Bagan as a World Heritage site… this impacts on the hotels’ future. For now, we’re still discussing possibilities.”
A large problem of the management of the Bagan temple heritage landscape is the number of hotels situated very near the temples. Now, they are given 10 years to move to a special zone and away from the temples.
In a major blow to Bagan’s “limbo” hotels, the city has decided that within 10 years all hotels will have to move to a special zone.
The decision will particularly hit the owners of 42 hotels, inns and guesthouses, some of them still under construction, that have been anxiously awaiting a decision on their status.
All Bagan hotels will have to relocate to a specially designated hotel zone 4, located beside the Bagan-Kyaukpadaung road, after 10 years, said Sai Kyaw Ohn, deputy minister of hotels and tourism and a member of the Heritage Management Committee.
“That’s enough time for them to recover their investment, though some may lose out. But we can’t allow hotels in the Bagan heritage zone,” he said, adding that the decision had been accepted by the current government.
Still, if Angkor Wat is on your bucket list, there’s no need to panic just yet. Southeast Asia travel specialist Andrea Ross tells us, “They just moved the Angkor Wat entrance gate to an area that can accommodate more tourists entering, so it doesn’t look like they’re planning on limiting numbers anytime soon.” Traditionally, there have been two main gates through which visitors can enter the site, colloquially known as the East and West gates, and the ticket booths were stationed at the much larger, and busier, West gate. However, the booths were recently moved away from this gate in order to cut down on bottlenecking. Ross adds that other solutions, such as making some roads one-way only, could help reduce traffic (the human kind and the vehicle kind). A few measures are already in place. “They have capped visits to the top floor of the Central Angkor Wat Tower to 100 people at a time,” says Ross. “This is to reduce the wear and tear on the top tower.”
Another travel specialist familiar with the area (who also asked to remain anonymous) says that the issue of overcrowding at Angkor Wat is a controversial one in Cambodia: The Tourism Management Plan for Angkor, the official body that oversees the UNESCO site, is considering several plans to limit visitor numbers, while the national Ministry of Tourism is actively courting travelers from China and Korea as part of their plan to increase tourism revenue. He adds that this has created conflict between the two groups, and no one is sure who will win out. The Siem Reap airport is also due for an extensive upgrade and renovation, which hints at a bigger tourism strategy as well.
A small clash last week between the Ministry of Culture and the tourism industry in Myanmar when the former abruptly banned the climbing of all temples in Bagan. This decision was quickly reversed after it was met with vocal opposition from many parties.
The Ministry of Culture has backpedalled on a decision to ban visitors from ascending pagodas in Bagan.
The edict, announced on February 22, prompted criticism from the tourism industry as well as from within the ministry. In barely 24 hours the ministry clarified its position, saying visitors would be banned from ascending all but five pagodas – its previous policy.
The ministry took the unpopular original decision because a medical company had conducted a cultural show on Pyathagyi Pagoda in the second week of February. It was to come into effect on March 1.
Borobudur Working Group head Priyono concurred, attributing the surge in the number of vendors in the area to the lack of assessment regarding the social and environmental impacts of the Borobudur tourist industry on the more than 75,000 people who live in 20 villages in the environs of the temple.
“We are hoping that the government’s new body will be able to better manage the temple in terms of both preservation and local empowerment,” Priyono said.
Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, is also home to hundreds of ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples, most of them built between the fifth and 14th centuries, at the time of the arrival of the two religions in the country.
Borobudur, located some 40 kilometers northwest of Yogyakarta, is one of the world’s most famous temples, renowned for its gigantic size and sophisticated architecture. Built in the ninth century, the Mahayana Buddhist temple is 1.5 hectares in size and has a volume of 60,000 cubic meters.
Luang Prabang is one of my favourite places in Southeast Asia, but the increased tourism caused by its World Heritage site status is one of the things that is destroying its essence. It’s not just Luang Prabang, however, this article is a critique of tourism management at World Heritage sites.
It is officially described as the best-preserved city in Southeast Asia, a bygone seat of kings tucked into a remote river valley of Laos. Luang Prabang weaves a never-never land spell on many a visitor with its tapestry of French colonial villas and Buddhist temples draped in a languid atmosphere.
But most of the locals don’t live here anymore. They began an exodus from this seeming Shangri-La after their hometown was listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, and sold itself wholesale to tourism.
It’s not an uncommon pattern at some of the 1,031 sites worldwide designated as places of “outstanding universal value” by the U.N. cultural agency: The international branding sparks mass tourism, residents move out as prices escalate or grab at new business opportunities, hastening the loss of their hometown’s authentic character to hyper-commercialization. But locals may also prosper and some moribund communities are injected with renewed energy.