Should Angkor cap visitors?

Crowding at Angkor Wat. Source: Conde Nast Traveler 20160310

Overcrowding at Angkor has become a real problem in recent years, and this story from the Conde Nast traveler highlights some of the tensions between tourism and heritage management at Angkor.

Crowding at Angkor Wat. Source: Conde Nast Traveler 20160310
Crowding at Angkor Wat. Source: Conde Nast Traveler 20160310

Will Angkor Wat Be the Next Site to Cap Visitor Numbers?
Conde Nast Traveler, 10 March 2016

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.

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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.

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