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Angkor Wat- a Break From the Mass Tourism

Issued: 07 July 2003

Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap which has never been empty of visitors over the years came to time to take its respite from the mass tourism when the SARS outbreak and the Iraq War emerged.

The ever familiar picture of the tourist buses jammed the parking lots around the ancient temples of Angkor and the noisy hawkers and taxi drives calling their clients has turned now to be in serenity. Outside the newly built Siem Reap International Airport, a crowd of taxi drivers waited for their clients; they, who once asked $20 to $25 for a day of chauffeuring tourists around the sites gladly to settle the price just at $15. At Khompu Pitch Hotel, one of a clutch of new hotels, was willing the give the guest a room for a third of the price.

The issue of over-development of the mass tourism in the area was feared by the conservationists to ruin the world heritage site. The disappearance of a number of tourists to Angkor Wat Temple due to the outbreak and the war may be the good news for the conservationists.

Ironically, for the impoverished country like Cambodia of which tourism industry is a few of its sources of revenue, the restored serenity of the Angkor Wat means their worse living condition.

Tourist officials say many hotels and other tourist businesses have had cut staff because of the plunging number of visitors. The 3,500 who came to Angkor Wat in May were 63 percent less than a year earlier.

However, tourism officials are optimistic that as SARS ebbs, the vibrant tourism in Angkor Wat will revive and that Cambodia will reach its goal of 1 million annual visitors to the site by 2010.

If the expectation comes true by then, people here will go on their living with a pack of tourist buses again while the serenity of Angkor will again be swept by the chatter of visitors and hawkers.





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