The Tourism Ministry’s new plan to develop Sihanoukville’s beaches will keep some conservation areas off-limits to development in an attempt to attract more tourists to the coastal hotspot.
“Currently, our bay area is rather disorganized, which affects quality and hygiene standards,” said Tang Socheat Kreasna, director of the Sihanoukville tourism department, on Tuesday. “When we have clear standards, it will help attract more tourists.”
Improved waste management and higher-quality vendors along the beachfront will also help, he said.
Development projects will be divided into five categories—conservation projects for research that will allow no commercial development, ecotourism for some tourist activities with limits on construction and visitors, and three other divisions that will allow for varying levels of development—according to an announcement posted on the ministry’s Facebook page on Monday.
As part of Sihanoukville’s tourism development plan released last month, the Tourism Ministry aims to attract 2 million local tourists and 1 million international tourists by 2020.
Establishing tourist-centric and protected beach areas would help the government reach its goal—a realistic one, given 1.5 million local tourists and 500,000 foreign tourists visited the city last year, Mr. Socheat Kreasna said.
Development projects will also be classified as either government-managed or co-managed by the state, private firms and communities. All projects must be approved by the National Committee for Bay Management of Cambodia, according to the ministry’s announcement.
Leng Pala, vice president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said if the new strategy was implemented successfully, it could help Sihanoukville become a major travel destination and compete with the country’s Asean neighbors.
“This new arrangement will make the overall area look better, comparable to neighboring beaches in Thailand and Vietnam,” he said.
Dora Mills, owner of Secret Garden, a restaurant and hotel near O’Tres beach, said that she hoped the government and businesses would work together as the local business community had done in the past.
“We have banded together as a community with committee meetings and so on to organize beach cleanups, recycling initiatives and more, something that was sorely neglected before we came along,” Ms. Mills said in an email. “We’re all very invested, both environmentally and financially, in making it a beautiful destination for tourists.”
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