Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Angkor Hotel Dispute Volume 49 Number 6, November/December 1996
by Matthew E. Draper

Construction of a government hotel complex and five privately funded hotels at Angkor in Cambodia has drawn fire from conservationists who worry that ancient Khmer temples there will be damaged by a parade of tourists. The hotels are intended to bolster the tourist trade and alleviate the country's poverty.

The government hotel will be located two to three miles from Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples, on a parcel known as Hotel City encompassing four and one-half square miles. In an attempt to control development near the site, the government banned construction of large hotels outside the complex. Local officials, however, recently approved building plans for five large private hotels along the main road to Angkor Wat. Ground clearing for the hotels, which will have a total of 1,295 rooms, has already begun, and Cambodia's two co-prime ministers have since given their approval.

Meanwhile a Malaysian company hopes to attract 1,500 people every night to Angkor Wat with a sound-and-light show it is developing. The show purports to describe ancient events, but conservationists and even King Norodom Sihanouk contend that they will be crass, garish spectacles with no basis in historical fact. Nouv Sam, the Angkor area's deputy provincial governor, says that "the government has already in principle agreed to the project."

Tourism at the 1,000-year-old site has boomed since the 1993 United Nations-administered elections ushered in a period of relative political stability. Last year 220,000 tourists visited Cambodia, an increase of 24 percent over 1994.

© 1996 by the Archaeological Institute of America