Thursday, October 18, 2007

Plans afoot to ease congestion

As I mentioned recently, efforts are now being made to control visitors to Angkor Wat before the sheer volume of tourists entering the complex causes major headaches and devalues the visit for many people. I was so so lucky to go to Angkor Wat for the first time in 1994 when aside from some local visitors, I was the only western tourist I saw at the temple for the sunrise and just one of a handful on my return visit later that afternoon. Fantastic memories and an experience I will never forget.

New tourist route could be answer to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat woes - by Stéphane Hanot TravelVideo.TV

As tourism in Angkor Wat continues to grow unabated, a new tourist route could alleviate some of the tourist pressure. For many years now, the Cambodian government has been looking for solutions to take some of the pressure out of the site. As the first seven months of 2007 brought 442,000 visitors to Siem Reap International Airport, a growth of 38 percent, Angkor Wat is poised to continue to take a beating from the hordes of tourists that visit the world heritage site. The Apsara Authority, which manages the Angkor Wat complex, recently introduced new paths with tourists taking different routes to enter and exit the temple. The objective now is to make certain that tourists do not flock to the site at the same time. The idea is to create circuits around Angkor to spread the number of visitors and take some of the pressure faced by Angkor top attractions.

“As France and Japan are sharing the presidency of the Permanent Secretary for the International Coordinating Committee for the Preservation and Development of the Historical Site of Angkor under the UNESCO, we work closely with Cambodian authorities to find the best solutions to accommodate tourism requirements,” explained Jean-François Desmazieres, French Ambassador in Cambodia. “The target is not to kill the hen with the golden eggs but at the same to preserve the authenticity of Angkor.”Ev en if the committee plays only a consultative role, it has been able to avoid the development of the most incredible projects such as a subway to the temples. According to the Ambassador Desmazieres, Angkor Wat can indeed accommodate a fairly high number of tourists every day. “During the time of Khmer Kings, they were already thousand of visitors per day to Angkor Wat temples,” he said.

The committee has also been working with Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism for the creation of new tourist sightseeing such as traditional handicraft or silk producing villages. The most ambitious project is the development of a new tourist road, which would link Angkor Wat to the spectacular Preah Vihear temple, via the old city of Koh Ker where many temples can still be visited. Discussions will take place about tourism development from October 26 to 28, when the Coordinating Committee meets. In another development, Cambodia’s tourism minister recently signed a joint declaration with tourism ministers from Laos and Vietnam on trilateral cooperation at the meeting in Ho Chi Minh City. The ministers agreed to encourage their national tourism agencies to boost exchange of information and experiences in tourism development and promotion. They also agreed to jointly hold and attend tourism events and tours and cooperate in personnel training. According to published reports, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, under the “three countries – one destination” scheme, will implement measures to boost tourism and cultural activities as well as encourage public-private partnerships with regard to tourism development.

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