06 June 2005

When $20 m is not enough


Ticket prices to Angkor are going up by $3/day. The excuse given is that the shoes of a million visitors a year are damaging the monuments, and thus they need to start wearing special slippers, and the $3 is meant to cover the added cost.

Well. To begin with, the most heavily-traveled routes, such as some of the passageways in Angkor Wat, already have wooden walkways to protect the stone. Expanding that system would seem to be the best way to prevent damage.

The truth, though, is that this is a tale of corruption and avarice. Angkor is one of the world's premier tourist destinations. It comprises hundreds of major temples over a very large area, and is "managed" by the Apsara Authority, a government agency. The ticketing, however, is handled by Sokimex, best known as a gasoline company. It in turn is owned by Sokha, which is the personal fiefdom of Sok Kong, friend to the Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Tickets to Angkor were $20/day, or $40 for three days. With approximately one million visitors a year, that's somewhere between $13-20 m annually. Only about $6 m is given to the Apsara Authority, and the remainder is used to print tickets and pay for the people at the ticket booths. Right.

OK, so $7-14 m goes to Sok Kong each year now. Next year, they're expecting 1.6 m visitors, which would increase that to $15-26 m. Let's say the new slippers cost $1/pair. The new charges will add another $3.2 m, for a total of $18-29 m, nearly all of which is profit.

Nice work if you can get it.