Cambodian tourism and foreign investment continues to grow as momentum gathers pace for The Royal Group of Cambodia’s visionary plan to develop Asia’s “first environmentally planned resort island”.
The country’s biggest business conglomerate, The Royal Group, with substantial interests in property and infrastructure development is now at the forefront of developing the country’s coastal tourism, with a bold plan to transform the pristine island of Koh Rong (www.kohrong.com.kh), 30 minutes by speed boat from Preah Sihanouk Province, into an eco-resort island set to rival established destinations such as Phuket, Samui and Bali.
The Royal Group headed by tycoon Neak Oknha Dr. Kith Meng has recently unveiled its master plan to create an ecologically sound resort paradise. A comprehensive environmental impact assessment has been completed by Scott Wilson and a detailed master plan developed by MAP Architects. The first phase is set to be rolled out over the next five years.
Growth in Visitors and FDI Sets the Stage for Coastal Tourism Development
Setting the stage for one of the world’s most ambitious luxury tourism initiatives, Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism reported a healthy 9.87 percent growth in arrivals for the first four months of this year. Visitor numbers have topped 2 million a year for the last three years, up from under half a million a decade ago.
Average hotel occupancy across the country is at an all time high of 64 percent, with tourism now earning over US$1.5 billion a year. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also raised its forecast for GDP growth in Cambodia this year to 4.8 percent and 6.8 percent for 2011, with positive recovery in foreign direct investment and rebounding tourism.
The average length of stay is currently 6.45 days, with international arrivals highest at Siem Reap Province, indicating that Cambodian tourism is still largely centred around world famous Angkor Wat. Thailand has shown that most tourists stay longer at beach destinations; therefore Cambodia has significant potential to increase tourism receipts and volume with the development of its 443 kilometres pristine coastline.
Only 7.15% of international visitors in 2009 visited the Kingdom’s undiscovered beaches – even though O’Tres Beach in Preah Sihanouk Province, Ream Beach and Koh Rong are ranked in the top 22 of “Asia’s Best Beaches” by Forbes Magazine.
With Vietnam, Korea, China, Japan, USA and France as the biggest markets, Cambodia now sees a golden opportunity to develop tourism along its relatively untouched coast – and persuade visitors to extend their holidays in the country, rather than proceeding to beach destinations elsewhere in Asia.
“Cambodia is conveniently located within 2 hours of Singapore and Hong Kong, and 1 hour of Bangkok, so a vast tourism market remains untapped,” said Mr. David Simister, Chairman of CBRE Indochina, the exclusive advisor and sole agent for developing the island.
Cambodia’s coastal tourism is set to change with the newly expanded international airport at Sihanoukville ready to welcome regular flights from elsewhere in Asia.
“International travelers are already showing early interest in the concept of luxury tourism on the ‘Indochinese Riviera’ and Koh Rong stands out as one of the region’s most beautiful asset, with the benefit of having a sufficient size for critical mass, an airport, infrastructure and to evolve in the same manner as Phuket, but without the mistakes found in established resort destinations,” said Mr. Simister.
In the Koh Rong archipelago, Song Saa Private Island is already taking shape and is due for completion in late 2011. The project’s success in the first phase of villa sales last year proves there is interest in tourism and real estate in Cambodia’s coastline.
In Preah Sihanouk Province itself, a number of villa projects have emerged since 2007 but the city currently only boasts a limited number of high-end hotels, compared to Siem Reap Province which offers a range of three to five star hotels, totaling 6,500 keys and another 2,800 in the pipeline. High-end groups such as Raffles, Aman and Orient Express all have a presence in Siem Reap and commands rates of up to US$1,050 a night, for a pool suite at Amansara.
The Royal Group Unveils Master Plan for Koh Rong
The Royal Group’s master plan for sustainable tourism development of Koh Rong is based on a 99-year lease in perpetuity on the 78 sq km (30 sq mile) island granted to the company by the Cambodian government.
The unique lease means the island is under the control of a single ownership unlike anywhere else in Asia – and an especially attractive proposition to foreign investors of hotels, residential developments, marina and golf courses and other tourism infrastructure services.
“Since the project is balancing ecological protection with minimum carbon footprint, development will be targeting forward looking investors within the region and globally who share a vision on ecological development” said Mr. Simister.
Chairman & CEO of The Royal Group, Neak Oknha Dr. Kith Meng, one of Asia’s most prominent tycoons, said: “Royal Group is now continuing its contribution to Cambodia’s tourism growth with the vision for development of Koh Rong”.
“Koh Rong is our latest project aimed at lifting the economy by developing coastal tourism which, as Thailand has demonstrated, contributes enormously to overall tourism revenue for a country”.
“Tourism to Siem Reap Province is well developed with world famous Angkor Wat, but the potential of the country’s beautiful coastline is the missing link in the overall development of Cambodia’s tourism.”
Former Royal Group Initiatives playing a key role in Cambodia’s development and growth have included bringing in ANZ Bank and upgrading the national rail infrastructure. Royal Group also controls MobiTel, Cambodia’s biggest mobile-phone operator.
Koh Rong a Chance to Invest in a Future Phuket or Koh Samui
Koh Rong is the largest of 22 islands in an archipelago off the coast known as the Indochina Riviera, close to Preak Sihanouk Province, Cambodia’s leading resort destination.
“The Koh Rong story is similar to that of Samui and Phuket 20 years ago,” said Mr. David Simister. It is one of the last undiscovered paradises in South-East Asia with the potential to become the next Asian Riviera.
“As such, it represents a chance to invest in a future Phuket before the air connections and initial wave of tourism drive land demand and prices. By getting in early, investors will benefit from having first preference on site selection and will be able to maximise value on their investments.”
“Development along the Cambodia coastline is just emerging. With the recent expansion of Sihanoukville International Airport, the area is well positioned to handle a growing tourism industry. Koh Rong offers an opportunity to capture Cambodia’s untapped potential.”