Plans afoot to boost visitor numbers, jobs and infrastructure
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A date to start work on – and details for – a plan to establish a new city in Preah Monivong Bokor National Park, Kampot province, has not yet been decided.
No investment in it has been agreed and no approval of the site development has been granted.
In late August, the government announced the plan to establish the new city and sought investment for it from the private sector, describing it as one of the Kingdom’s main potential tourist attractions.
According to the master plan – officially known as “Master Plan for Bokor City Development Project until 2035” – the new city will occupy about 5 percent of land in Bokor National Park, amounting to about 9,000 hectares.
The new city is set to be a smart, historical and green city, the government said. It will be an important hub for eco-tourism activity in the Kingdom. The new city is scheduled to straddle the provinces of Kampot, Preah Sihanouk and Kampong Speu.
Kampot’s Teuk Chhou District Governor Nak Sovannary, says so far there has not been any investment made in the announced development site, but says sales and purchases in the sub-division are booming surrounding the development areas. However, big constructions have neither been applied for nor implemented in the area.
Nak adds that the new city will not only help boost the tourism sector in the region, but also bring more jobs for locals.
“There will be residential and commercial elements in the plan. However, construction has yet to start,” he adds.
According to the announced new city development in Kampot, the land price for resort and hotel development along the Kampot river ranges between $100-$250 per square metre (sqm), while land in Kampot city is between $200 to $400 per sqm and in outer Kampot city it is less than $50, according to CBRE, a commercial real estate services and investment firm.
Kampot Provincial Governor Cheav Tay, says no administrative office for the new city has been formed yet.
He adds that the ministry of land management manages the land while the ministry of the interior is in charge of the administration.
“Sokha Hotel plans to invest in Bokor, but we have no idea where they will expand. We will wait and see,” Cheav adds.
The master plan addresses a variety of zones, including residential, commercial, mixed development, transportation, tourism, administrative and public service, park and green space, cultural and religion and technical infrastructure.
All the construction and the buildings in each zone must consist of gardens, trees, car parks, toilets, sewage treatment plants, colourful buildings, beauty and the Khmer architecture design style, according to the master plan.
It states that the residential zone has 3,390 hectares – 37. 85 percent of the total land. This is divided into the low, medium and high-rise buildings and mixed residential zones.
The commercial zone has a total area of 821 hectare – 9.17 percent of the total allocated land. It allows for a market, mixed commercial development, public and green spaces.
Ly Reaksmey, deputy director of the General Department of Construction of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said the development of Bokor city is a new site 30 kilometres from Sokha Hotel resort. He could not confirm when the project will start and how much the investment will be.
Ly says: “Bokor City will cover all areas in the mountain, so it will have locations by historical sites and there will be new sites. If Sokha Hotel is included in the new city, we will mainly focus on a tourism city, with the hotel, bungalows and retirement sites for older tourists. That is the best location on the mountain,” he adds.
“Our vision from now until 2035 is the development strategy in Bokor but, in five years, we will have to review the plan to align with the new development,” Ly says.
Ly points out that now the government is keeping an eye on the development because the land is state public property that will be turned into state private land. He adds that the state private land may be sold, exchanged, leased or granted. Therefore, it will be easy to attract the private sector to join the development.
“We are building the infrastructure to the site to reflect the fact it is a new city, so we need time to build things such as roads, but not too many or too much. We will develop only 5 percent – 9,000 hectares – of the total area in Bokor. Therefore it will be a sustainable development for a new city. If we include the old and new city, it will cover 18 percent of the total land,” Ly adds.
“The master plan for Bokor City Development 2035 is to prepare and develop the Bokor Mountain to be a smart city, with historical sites for tourists to visit, greenery, nature as well as access to the sea and mountain,” Ly said.
Based on the plan, the government will set policies and regulations to set up the city for residences, resorts, educational establishments, work and businesses. It will also protect and preserve the historical city, natural resources, natural sources of water and sightseeing views, as well as involve the building of public infrastructure, public spaces and other infrastructure to integrate the region.
On top of that, it is designed to attract and encourage and support public and private investment to develop business, and develop tourism products to boost economic growth and, last but not least, is the need for good governance and human resource development.
Being modern, tourism products will be diversified in that area, says Say Sinol, director of the tourism department in Kampot province.
“When we have services and products, we can promote and sell to the tourists both locally and internationally,” Say adds. “In Kampot province, there are only two main tourism destinations: Teuk Chhou, and Bokor. These two destination are still good for tourists. However, the development must add more tourism products,” he adds.
Say says the new city will not affect the old city because it is about 40km away. “However, we have heritage buildings in the coastal area in Kampot city included the development of new city, nature and tourism services. I think it is good to have diversification,” he says.
CBRE’s Manager of Research and Consulting Kinkesa Kim, says the master plan on the new city in Bokor is huge and it will diversify the tourism sector in Kampot as well as in the country as a whole.
She says that it has many amenities, infrastructure, borey (self-contained developments), hotels and commercial zones.
“It is a good plan and a new tourism destination. However, we have no idea when they are going to start, and what their plan is. What we know is they are working with investors to implement this project,” Kim adds.
“Normally, when there are big investments coming up, there will be an inflow of people to build and oversee the infrastructure, a satellite city and services to support it. However, we don’t know what the full impact will be because this project is big and the government will do it phase-by-phase,” Kim adds.
She recommends that all the projects should consider the situation in Sihanoukville as a model, adding that when there is fast development, the existing infrastructure is not adequate to support it. “Therefore, we should study how the infrastructure is ready or not for development, such as roads and an airport.
Kim adds that the investors in Kampot mostly are a mixture of local and foreigners. Kampot has potential to be a tourism region rather than one for heavy industry. “I think the tourism sector is still there. It contributes to the diversification of tourism in Cambodia. To reduce risk, developers have to conduct more marketing and raise awareness of it among travellers and accurately plan services and infrastructure.
“The new city and old city are part of a unified plan. One will not replace the other. However, the plan will create two poles in the city. First, there is the ancient pole and nature and old town and culture. The other is the new city, which will be modern with many services such as hotels and restaurants. Thus, travellers can enjoy both,” Kim points out.
She adds that the potential for Kampot is bungalows, resorts and nature rather than high-rise buildings, so the master plan for the new city on the mountain is good for tourism. It also creates jobs and investment in the province.
Sear Rithy, chairman of WorldBridge Group, said that when the government announced the new city, it was a positive sign. He adds when the government determine a clear location for the city, there will be a flow of people to the settlement and the city will have infrastructure and administration, so the people can make a living.
Sear says authorities have to consider the place where it wants to invest is for the long term.
He notes: “When the government announces something, the price of land will increase but how big the rise is will depend on ourselves.”
The potential for tourism in Cambodia is waterfalls, wildlife, islands, salt fields, heritage building and other potential and famous aspects of eco-tourism. The potential for tourism has pushed this province to fast development in most sectors, such as construction, agriculture, industry and handicrafts, mines and energy, tourism, services and other aspects.