Asia

Will tourists pay nearly double to enter Angkor Wat?

A young monk sits in front of a lack in front of the Angkor Wat temple on 1 January 2016, near Siem Riep, Cambodia. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Angkor Wat is the temple complex after which the vast archaeological park is informally named

The price of visiting Cambodia's celebrated Angkor Wat site is about to jump significantly, making some wonder if tourists will be put off going.

The vast archaeological park, named after its most famous temple complex the 12th Century Angkor Wat, draws more than two million tourists a year.

Officials says the price of tickets has not increased in more than two decades.

So from 1 February a one-day ticket for foreigners will go from $20 (£16) to $38, a 90% increase.

A three-day ticket will go from $40 to $60, a weekly ticket from $62 to $72.

Cambodians will still be able to access the park for free.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Once almost lost to the jungle, the site is now heaving with tourists

Representing what is left of Khmer Empire capitals in the area between the 9th and 15th Century, Angkor is one of the world's most important historic sights and, at around 400sq km (154sq miles), also one of the largest.

As one of South East Asia's poorest nations, Cambodia relies on the money brought in by ticket sales - $63.6m last year.

The changes to ticket prices were announced in August, but has still come too soon for some operators, who have complained about a lack of consultation.

Sichan Orm from local tour operator Angkor Destination told the BBC that while a "step by step" increase "would have been fine", the steep jump is "very fast".

In most cases, tourists will pick up the cost of the increase themselves she said, but it would be "hard to revise the bill" for customers who have paid for packages long in advance.

Image caption The vast size of the park means there are plenty of tranquil areas away from the crowds

But she and other operators the BBC spoke to seemed confident the increase would have little effect.

"We think that people will still come," she said.

Ticket prices represent a small part of the total most international tourists spend to get to the area.

"Of course it's expensive for us, but for tourists not so much," said Ms Orm.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many of the biggest structures in Angkor are ancient Hindu or Buddhist temples

The Cambodia Association of Travel Agents said most tour operators have had time to prepare and that it was unlikely to have a significant impact on numbers.

Angkor Enterprise, which administers ticket sales for the government, argues that the new prices still represent good value as the old ones were the same for decades.

"If you look at the inflation, a one-day pass would be worth about $40 now. There are more than 100 temples and $37 for one day is still cheaper than other places," Executive Director Ly Se told Channel NewsAsia.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The ancient cities of Angkor were abandoned centuries ago

Ticketing for the Unesco World Heritage site was handled until 2016 by Cambodia's biggest oil and gas company, Sokimex.

During that time it was allowed to keep 15% of the revenue - an arrangement that was controversial with opponents of the government.

The state now receives almost all the money, with some paid into a conservation fund. Two dollars from each ticket will also go to the Swiss-run Kantha Bopha Foundation, which offers free medical treatment for poor Cambodian children.

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