Tourism Sector Accepts Fee Hikes, Hopes For More Lead Time

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The entrance fees for popular tourist sites in Cambodia, such as the Angkor complex (pictured), haven’t changed in a quarter of a century.

The Cambodian government have been pushing hard over the past year to increase revenue from tourism, which has translated into an increase in fees for the most popular sites, including a significant hike for access to the Angkor temples to come into effect from February 1. Some industry officials think it’s about time.

“Most of the fees date back 25 years, and its time that this government increased the cost to experience our amazing destinations,” said Luu Meng, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Forum (G-PSF) on Tourism. “Looking at the fees charged for most experiences internationally, we are still inexpensive.”

According to popular British travel publisher Rough Guides, Cambodia has just been ranked fourth among the 10 most popular budget destinations for tourists in 2017.

The only major problem for the international tourism industry regarding these price hikes in fees is the lead time, with most tour operators packaging and printing their destination experiences twelve to eighteen months in advance.

A formal request from the private sector was sent to the Ministry of Tourism to delay the increases to November 2017. Though the Ministry formally responded with a no – the increase would go into effect – they did add that any tour operator that experienced a loss as a result of presales can file a claim for the difference on a case by case basis.

There has been a concentration on increasing the quality of the destination experiences and sorting out the mechanisms on how fees are collected for greater transparency to the benefit of further development of the sites.

Pierre-André Romano, general manager of EXO Travel, also agreed that it was time the fees were increased, but noted it would be essential in the longer term for the government to provide greater lead time for any further increases.

“It is important that international tour operators promoting Cambodia have confidence in the costs that they are packaging plus what they can offer,” he said. “Most of us are building packages twelve to eighteen months ahead, and we can’t go back and say hang on, we have to charge you a bit more.”

According to Romano, the tourist attractions which will have their entrance fee increased this year include the Angkor Complex in Siem Reap, and the National Museum, the Royal Palace and Toul Sleng in Phnom Penh. “We expect rates to be stable for the coming two years at least. The G-PSF Group B (Tourism) will help us to discuss directly with government about future increases,” he added.

Luu Meng acknowledges that a readiness to adapt is key. “Each day, things are happening,” he said. “We are expanding what we do and how we do it with the cooperation of government. It’s an exciting time as we build Cambodia as ‘the destination’.”