PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA - Angkor Wat has triumphed across the centuries to emerge at the world's top tourism landmark in TripAdvisor's Traveler's Choice awards—for the second time since 2015.
The travel website used — what else? — an algorithm to determine the winners, which were determined by taking into account the quantity and quality of reviews and rankings for landmarks worldwide gathered over a 12-month period.
WATCH: Angkor Wat voted top travel site
Angkor Wat scored 33,000 5-star reviews with comments that included “must see,” “magnificent” and “WOW!” along with admonitions to bring comfortable shoes and bottled water to explore the 250 square kilometers of Angkor Archaeological Park, which includes Angkor Wat and hundreds of other temples.
“This is the Khmer nation's pride, because Angkor is not only part of the prosperous heritage of Cambodia, but it has also become the heart and soul of the nation,” according to Long Kosal, a spokesman for the government's Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA).
Built between the years 802 and 1431, the city of Angkor was the center of the Khmer empire in what is now Cambodia, until it was toppled by internal power struggles, foreign invasion and climate change.
'Unique concentration of features'
A complex of temples, basins, dikes, reservoirs and canals, the site “is a unique concentration of features testifying to an exceptional civilization,” according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Angkor was, according to World Archaeology, “the most extensive urban complex in the pre-industrial world.”
Angkor topped the 2015 TripAdvisor landmarks list, and last year Lonely Planet, another travel site, gave the temples of Angkor the top spot.
Ang Kim Eang, founder of the Great Angkor Tour Company, said the most recent award, which was made on May 23, will bolster tourism as more people become aware of the temples. But he cautioned that it was important to educate tourists about how to behave while visiting the sacred site, as visitor numbers continue to rise.
Code of conduct
To prevent damage to the complex, the APSARA provides a code of conduct with video on its site.
“They don't have any knowledge,” he said. “They did not pay respect to the Buddha statues while they are visiting. We are worried especially when it is crowded.”
Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a George Washington University professor who is director of the masters of tourism administration program, on Wednesday told VOA Cambodia “the way you preserve a cultural heritage site is that you put caps on admission. I did see that they doubled the admission prices in 2016, which is one way to control capacity.”
For foreign tourists, the price of a one-day pass increased from $20 to $37, a three-day ticket from $40 to $62 and a seven-day pass from $60 to $72. Cambodians enter without charge.
Golden Gate Gate Bridge top US landmark
In 1993, when Agkor Wat was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, there were 7,650 recorded visitors. Last year, 2.2 million tourists visited the temple complex, Kosal said, bringing in more than $62 million to government coffers. So far this year, about 950,000 tourists have visited Angkor Wat. In April, 63,541 Chinese tourists visited the complex, far in excess of the 17,217 South Koreans and 12,660 visitors from the United Kingdom, according to government statistics.
Until November 2015, the complex was leased to a company owned by Sok Kong, a petroleum magnate close to the ruling Cambodian People's Party. Since then, it has been under government control.
The 2017 TripAdvisor awards honored 706 landmarks in 82 countries, with the Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the Mezquita Cathedral de Cordoba in Cordoba, Spain, St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, and the Taj Mahal in India occupying the next four positions. The 80-year-old Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco holds 11th place worldwide and is the top-rated U.S. landmark.