CAMBODIA - With tourist arrivals in Cambodia approaching the 3 million mark, the country is seeking to diversify its tourism offer. As Siem Reap and the nearby Angkor temples reach saturation, the Cambodian Government is turning its eyes to the 400-kilometre coast along the Gulf of Siam.
The area receives only 162,000 international tourists a year, a mere 5% of all arrivals in the country (and compared to 44% for Siem Reap). The coast has some 60 hotels with almost 3,000 rooms, the majority of them in the coastal city of Sihanoukville (45 hotels with 1,945 rooms). Only a few of them offer world-class standards: Cambodia's Sokha Group is present with the Sokha Beach Resort, a five-star resort, while the Independence Hotel, inaugurated in 1963, reopened two years ago as a four-star property.
However, more luxury and first-class properties are to come. The Royal Group Cambodia has recently revealed its ambition to build Asia's 'first environmentally planned resort island', pioneering high-end international tourism on the country's idyllic coastline. The vision is to develop the pristine island of Koh Rong ‑ a 30-minute boat ride from the coastal city of Sihanoukville ‑ into an ecologically sustainable resort paradise rivalling established Asian resort Islands such as Bali and Phuket.
The Sokha Group is involved in two major resort developments, the Sokha O'Chheuteal beach and casino in Sihanoukville and the Sokha Bokor Resort. Both are scheduled to open in 2012. A Japanese project is also taking shape in Sihanoukville with residence apartments and a hotel. The Song Saa resort, an exclusive 25-villa property will open by the end of the year on an island off Sihanoukville. And in Ream, Accor has signed for a M-Gallery property by 2013.
The crucial problem for the coast is the lack of air access. There are still no regular flights to Sihanoukville and in the short term Cambodia's national airline Cambodia Angkor Air can only promise charter flights …