Thursday, March 01, 2007

Angkor Wat threatened by tourist invasion

01 March 2007

World Travel Guide

Cambodia's ancient Angkor Wat complex is facing one of its biggest threats yet - the fastest-growing tourist onslaught of any World Heritage site.

Conservationists warn that visitors are already damaging Angkor's treasures irreparably. In 1993, after Angkor was added to Unesco's World Heritage List, 7,650 visitors ventured to the site. Last year almost 900,000 tickets were sold, worth US$25m (£12.8m), and three million visitors are expected in 2010.

Unesco is said to be very concerned by the unprecedented acceleration, which they say is critically damaging the monuments and the local environment.

The director of tourism at Angkor is said to be finalising regulations for controlling visitors, training guards to watch the temples and educating visitors to help protect the monuments.

Damage is being caused by tourists climbing over temples and manhandling the vulnerable stonework. Other temples are sinking into their sandy foundations as the hospitality industry drains underground water reservoirs.

Meanwhile, the site's serenity is thought to be overwhelmed by commercialisation, with shopping malls and even a theme park cropping up in the booming nearby town of Siem Reap.

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