Could an airport passenger tax help save Angkor ruins?

80 - Angkor Wat at sunset.jpgThe Cambodian authorities are planning a new airport for Siem Reap, gateway to the Angkor ruins. This should help them get more tourists to visit these fabulous temples, given that the sector is the main contributor to the country’s economic growth.

Is it really a good thing for these ruins, though? While more tourists will help local businesses and the economy, they will also affect the temple structures that were not built to cope with the sheer numbers that already visit them every day.

So here is an idea – tax every tourist who arrives and departs from Cambodian airports, and use that money (which could be placed in a fund administered by UNESCO, the government and the airport operators) to help reinforce and reconstruct the temples.

According to some reports, foreign tourist arrivals to Cambodia increased by 12.4% to 1.22 million in the first half of 2010. Arrivals to Siem Reap rose 27% to 641,000. If everyone arriving into Cambodia paid just a $10 “Angkor tax”, that would have raised $12.2 million in the first half of the year. Taking just those who came into Siem Reap would have yielded $6.4 million. That would go a long way in a country like Cambodia.


Such taxes are, admittedly, are not the best way to raise funds. However, in a country like Cambodia, where corruption is a serious issue and there is a greater emphasis on bringing in tourists than safeguarding the very sites that attract them, they may be one of the best ways to help preserve one of the greatest man-made sights on earth.

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3 Responses to Could an airport passenger tax help save Angkor ruins?

  1. Robert 22 September, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    A little research needed here –

    There is a visa on arrival fee at Siem Riep – and also a fee for visiting Angkor Wat – a daily or multi day fee.

    So they have long worked oout how to generate good revenue from the ruins of history.

  2. Siva Govindasamy 22 September, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    Hey Robert, you have to pay for the visa and either a one-day or three-day pass to visit the ruins. Unfortunately, it is still unclear where the money from those go to.

    I’m suggesting that this fund be directly used to help the temples, and it should be managed by UNESCO or another international organisation which can monitor the disbursement. I am not saying that this would be the solution – but it might be a way to make the growing number of tourists who come to Angkor to help pay for the temples’ preservation themselves.

  3. Conor Daly 23 September, 2010 at 6:25 pm #

    I am currently in Siem Riep and have just come back from my first day at the ruins.

    I believe Siva is right, it is not clear at all that any of the one/three/seven day pass fees or the visas are directly reinvested in supporting the site. On the contrary, all of the renovation work is being carried out on the back of funding from European institutions in Germany, France and Switzerland e.g. University of Cologne Applied Sciences Department or from continental partners from China, Japan and South Korea.

    Certainly controls need to be tightened up at the site on touching any of the ruins with hands etc as it causes terrible damage to the structures given the great volume of visitors each year. Furthermore, I would introduce restrictions on the size/number (inc. possibly a near total ban) on motorised vehicles driving around the site. The combination of a lack of any manufactured roadways around the area and the concentration of large coaches and minibuses is laying waste to the green jungle surroundings when access via bicycles/walking/lighter moto-drawn carriages is just as easy, cheaper and more fun!

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