Published on : Monday, March 27, 2017
The global recognition given to the famous Angkor complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and other sites around the world for U.N. world heritage status, does as much damage as it does to preserve the historical gem. According to a new research paper, recognition from UNESCO is used as a tourism marketing tool, resulting in more visitor traffic to cultural sites, which threatens their short term and long term sustainability.
Angkor Archaeological Park—which offers visitors the chance to walk through many of the monuments remaining from the Angkor Empire, dating from the late 8th to early 15th centuries—is no exception. Josephine Caust, an arts consultant said that Angkor, a major international cultural heritage site might not recover once it is destroyed, and it is the world, and not only Cambodia which is responsible for its protection.
The park saw 5 million people last year, and influx of tourists raises a number of challenges for the site’s preservation. “Tourists continue to walk over areas of the site that are fragile and thereby damage the Khmer stonework.” To protect fragile structures and advance safety, some stone staircases and paths are covered with wooden platforms.
Although the park’s heritage status has increased tourism and assistance from foreign countries to preserve and develop it, there is also a downside of hosting more visitors.
According to Elizabeth Becker, a journalist who has covered Cambodia for decades and authored “Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism,” the massive crowds allowed in Angkor meant “the sense of the sacred is being lost.”