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Uncontrolled growth of tourism

Bangkok, Thailand
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Uncontrolled growth of tourism

I recently returned to Siem Reap for the first time since about six years ago. I had worked, lived and traveled all over Cambodia for several years starting in the late 80’s up to the early 2000 years and for extended periods of time and have seen the entire country improve in safety and grow economically, especially from the upsurge of tourism. I now reside in Thailand and have been here for over 20 years. My latest trip to Siem Reap however, was a total disappointment as it became quickly noticeable that tourism was and is growing at an unchecked level, especially the increased numbers of hotels and the absolute over saturated number of tourists. The road from the airport to the center of town was completely lined with huge hotels and there were now traffic jams. The absurd amount of tourists and tour buses was unbelievable. The various temples were so crowded with tourists that it was very difficult to obtain so “original” photos. Thankfully, we began our tour at the “back end” and reversed our travels and thus ran into less disturbing crowds. Angkor Wat had several areas closed off for restoration and it was no longer possible to climb the steep stairs to the top. Where once it had taken quite a long, tedious drive to get to Banteay Srei over narrow and rough roads there now is a 4 lane super highway right to the front gate! When we visited it there were over 20 tour buses already there and more full ones coming. Thank goodness there were less people opting for the climb up Kbal Spean but they have just about completed another 4 lane highway directly to it and I would imagine that soon there will be some sort of electrical cable car installed to supplement the rather rigorous hike up the mountain. I am all for improving tourist facilities however, to let tourism grow and spiral out of control without any checks is not the way to go about it, at least in my mind. All I can say is that I am happy that I had seen these marvelous temple ruins earlier and closer and when there were much fewer people around. Although tourist facilities were still rather basic back then(although 5 star hotels had already begun operating) at least things were clean and managed in a controlled and acceptable manner. I, for one, will not choose to go back under the current circumstances.

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New Zealand
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1. Re: Uncontrolled growth of tourism

So as a tourist I am '...absurd..' am I?

And so this time you go back,( and incidentally, are you not a tourist yourself?), and by going back again,are you also contributing to the absurd amount of tourists?

Who do you think you are,if not a tourist?

Perhaps because you have been, you should not be alowed to go back.One way to reduce the clutter of tourists who have every right to be there.

Singapore, Singapore
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2. Re: Uncontrolled growth of tourism

I agree with your spirit Dik. Tourism management is a big issue in the SR area - it is scary thinking that many decisions are probably being made by persons who don't represent the people of Cambodia - who should benefit the most from their cultural treasures - and likely don't look very far into the future. Hopefully, the numerous NGOs can help keep a good vision in some of these issues.

Unfortunately, these things seem to happen organically - for example, I used to love Ao Nang/Railay area in Krabi - now things have gotten so bad there in terms of tourism - the place is a victim of its success.

Some random thoughts... :)

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Ao Nang
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Krabi Town, Thailand
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Krabi Town, Thailand
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Bangkok, Thailand
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3. Re: Uncontrolled growth of tourism

Thanks “Gumshu” for your response. You are absolutely correct in that I was indeed one of the “absurd tourists” but if you also noted the end of my piece I said that I would never go back again because of the totally uncontrolled masses of humanity that were trying to see a very important part of history and all at the same time. If touring with large masses of people is your thing then by all means “go with the flow” but that is not the type of tourism that I enjoy and want and thus I will not participate in such unorganized mayhem. There are numerous other spectacular sights in other parts of the world to be seen where the national and local tourist authorities have controlled the situation for several reasons, including restricting destruction to the valuable historical and cultural sights and using eco-tourism management techniques as a control measure.

Brisbane, Australia
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4. Re: Uncontrolled growth of tourism

We were there in July and didn't see loads of tourists at all, we thought it was pretty quiet. Maybe you need to time your visit in the off-season to avoid the masses. Cheers

New Zealand
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5. Re: Uncontrolled growth of tourism

I think we could have had a really good discussion on this subject but I don't think it should start from the premise that tourists are'...absurd..' in quantity.

I'm very sorry some of us got in the way of your taking 'original' photos.Get up earlier perhaps.

And I apologise if we who have never been before, happened to be there when you wanted the place to yourself!

I never saw temples crowded with tourists.And we were there in early Jan, peak season.

Cambodia has one of the world's great wonders and has every right to promote tourism there.1,000's of people would be starving without those tourists you disparage.

Sure, in an ideal world, tourism growth there would be 'controlled'in a manner which protects the total environment .But get real.Cambodia is a basket case.And if they have a chance at developing the tourism potential there, that's great.

All those hotels you seem to hate along the road from the Airport,State Road no.6 I think, have got to be built somewhere!Where else do you suggest?And think about all the locals who earn a living for their families from all those bad hotels which are in the wrong place!?

Tourism, overall is good for any country.But there is a price to pay.

As for myself, we've been travelling independantly, and on coach tours, and small group adventure tours since the early 70's.We saw Singapore and HongKong grow from very interesting places, with owner shops along every street, pigs being slaughtered where high rises stand now, market stalls everywhere, dried fish hanging out in the streets where glitzy shopping malls now stand.

And we are saddened at the passing of old KongKong and Singapore.But that's what happens as a country grows in afluence.Tourism helped build what you see there now.

It is arrogance to deny that same opportunity to a country whose people deserve a chance of hope for their future, because we don't want to see things change.

Planned tourism, or 'controlled' tourism is often another euphemism for those with power and money to take control and ownership of tourism opportunities away from the individual locals.

There is a plan I was told to build a monorail so we tourists could see the main sights and get rid of the tuk tuks which are blamed for fumes, noise and congestion.This is nothing more than a plan by vested interests to grab complete control of the enormous money stream generated by tourists spending with local, individually owned tuk tuk drivers.

2,000,000 visitors last year and rapidly rising.

Now think about how much money is spent there, and what it means to poor villagers?Ban the tuk tuks, by building a monorail, and you consign 1'000's to poverty.

But under a controlled tourism plan, a monorail or similar is exactly what will happen.

Do you want that?

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Singapore
Singapore
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6. Re: Uncontrolled growth of tourism

thailand has far more tourist than cambodia,and the tourist that come into seim reap are at least coming to see the amazing temples,u want cambodia to have small numbers of tourism and stay the poor country it was,and not have growth/so you can have your rough roads and better photo shots,i think the people of cambodia would not see it your way,sure everyone can do there bit for cambodia and come in the off season,

New Zealand
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7. Re: Uncontrolled growth of tourism

My friend is a researcher on this very subject,"The economic impact of tourism,good or bad?"And I have invited her to get involved in this forum, and I have also discussed tourism in Cambodia with her and suggested it would make a great study case.

Cambodia has many problems, and we can only hope it develops (in all areas as well as tourism), as we would hope.

In discussions with an NGO head there , he pointed out that it was extremely difficult to get extra teachers, or experienced administration officers.The effect of the Pol Pot years is that the 'collective social memory' was destroyed.

So where do you get your social planners?Where do you get your experienced staff from, to carry out a plan for'managed tourism'?It will take a long time.

Remember that a whole young generation never had the chance of even basic schooling, to be able to enter the universities there, once they reopened.So it will take years to train experienced planners to fill all the positions needed, to allow Cambodia to develop, in all the spheres of Government, that we in our countries take for granted.

Easy for us to go there, and bemoan 'absurd amount of tourists..'and cry for 'controlled tourism..' when we have little understanding of the real nature of the problems facing Cambodia.

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Melbourne, Australia
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8. Re: Uncontrolled growth of tourism

This is one of those posts that is hard to ignore and not have your sixpence worth.

Its may be worth wondering what the post war Cambodian Authorities are supposed to do about this, no doubt having tourist crawl all over results in long term damage. Given the very regular travel program feature of this site by western media, lonley plant programs etc I doubt people would react well to travelling, at times 20 to 30 hours and spending several thousands of dollars to find they had to book days or weeks in advance or purchase it as part of a package tour in advance and suffer being bused around.

Developed countries have been able to implement such good models - tried to get a good view of the Mona Lisa or take a great shot of Notra Dame or any of the sites in Rome of late, accessibility comes at a price as does any form of control. What should we reasonably expect from a developing nation where tourism is one of few natural resources.

It is only in the last 20 years Australia has come up with some crowd control at some of the fragile ancient Aboriginal sites. It would be an interesting concept if this had only been to ensure that tourists could get an uncrowded photo rather than to preserve the site for future generations.

Given the myriad of problems, this country is doing what it can to address, you have to wonder what people expect and further wonder what right they have to be so critical and deriding.

Having had the pleasure of visiting the site in both June and November last year we did not find the crowds as overwhelming as some of the sites on earlier trips to Europe or in our own country for that matter.

It would have to be apparant to anyone who has been to Cambodia that the injection of funds from tourism is critically important to the emerging economy and no doubt the recovery from years of devistation will take some time.

While it is tempting to say a lot more on this complex subject I will leave it at that.

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New Zealand
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9. Re: Uncontrolled growth of tourism

Stowgray, your second to last paragraph is exactly how I feel.

Nice one.

Bangkok, Thailand
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10. Re: Uncontrolled growth of tourism

Well Gum Shu you have brought your friend in on this subject and he/she seems pretty knowledgeable on the subject of tourism and indeed makes some very good points. You on the other hand are certainly one of the “absurd” hordes of tourist I was talking about and in addition appear to be one of the arrogant types that we have all meet. You quote unnamed sources in a couple of points apparently in an attempt to display all of your complete knowledge of Cambodia and its people. I am sure that you are one of those tourists that pop in for a week or two, stay at a top notch facility and you quickly become an “expert” on Cambodia and its people. In fact, I am willing to bet that you have no idea where all the money collected for entering the Nakon Wat complex even goes and I would suggest that before you begin expressing your “expert” opinions on Cambodia, the Cambodian people and Cambodian tourism you do some better research on this subject.

Unlike you, I do not claim to be an “expert” on either tourism nor Cambodia but since the middle 80’s I have been living with and working with the Cambodian people and the Government to improve as mush as possible the health, welfare and economic aspects of the country with special emphasis on the rural poor. This includes those times where one had to watch where they stepped because of the excessive number of land mines in the various areas and also experiences dealing with armed personnel other than the military out in the bush. I have lived, slept and eaten with the rural folks as well as with the higher level politicians and believe that I understand the Cambodian people a bit more than you …but this certainly does not make me an “expert” like you. Guess that I never want to be like that! But I do have a right to my opinion whether or not you like it or not and I don’t care if you do or you don’t. Since beginning my work with the people and the Government I have seen drastic improvements in several areas and I have also seen lots of corruption, including major corruption involving tourism. Enough said.

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