Cambodian tourism to downplay Angkor Wat site

Angkor Wat, the pride of Cambodia, is becoming a little too popular.

The Cambodian government is determined to put a new focus on international tourism, stressing that visitors should be dispersed throughout the country. The move follows concerns that the traditional attraction, the Angkor Wat ancient temple complex, is suffering environmentally from mass tourism (notably Chinese) and more controversially from the semi-forcible eviction of 10,000 local residents to “protect” the park.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said that, in the past, overseas visitors had restricted themselves mostly to the capital Phnom Penh and the provincial Siem Reap with the neighboring temple complex. He explained that new packages were now offering more nature tourism, adventure activities, ecotourism and learning about local culture and food. Cambodia had many poor areas throughout the country which still needed development.

Mr Khon said the focus now was on the slogan “Every day is a Wonder” and included events such as the Southeast Asian Games next month, the international tourism forum in Sihanoukville and the 12th ASEAN para games in June. He added that tourism had rebounded since the pandemic and predicted arrivals in 2023 would surpass 4 million. The pre-pandemic six million would be equaled by 2025.

Cambodia is now rapidly transforming its poor infrastructure image, such as 38 new roads in Siem Reap, the recently-opened Phnom Phnom-Sihanoukville expressway and two mid-construction international airports which will encourage new airlines by applying tax incentives and reducing or waiving landing fees. Mark Geoffreys, spokesperson for Asian Tours which specializes in Cambodia, said, “Angkor Wat will remain the most popular venue, but the many improvements in transport communications mean that many more international tourists will visit other parts of the country too.”