Travel Daily Asia : Three Cambodian beaches ranked in Asia’s Top 22
On the list of the top 22 were O’Tres Beach in Sihanoukville, nearby Ream Beach in Prey Nop, and the sands of Koh Rong, an idyllic island just 30 minutes off the Cambodian coast which is being developed as the region’s first environmentally planned resort island.
The accolades recognised beaches across the region, from New Zealand and Sri Lanka to China.
Although largely unknown to international tourism, Cambodia’s 443 kilometre coastline is studded with ‘paradise’ islands bordering Thailand to the north and Vietnam to the south.
It is being touted as the “next Asian Riviera” to rival Phuket and Koh Samui.
Tourism in Cambodia has developed strongly over the past decade, reaching 2.16 million last year, but by far the main attraction is Angkor Wat.
Unlike neighbouring Thailand, where most tourism concentrates around beach resorts, a mere 7.7 per cent of Cambodia’s tourism is so far “coastal”. Visitors to Cambodia tend to combine Angkor Wat with a beach holiday elsewhere in Asia, overlooking the unspoiled beauty of the country’s undeveloped coast.
This is set to change, however, with a newly expanded airport at Sihanoukville which is currently open for chartered flights and private jets, with connections to the capital Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, as well as regional flights, expected with the development of tourism and international standard resorts along the coast. The Cambodian government is also encouraging international investors to develop ‘coastal tourism’ in the area – to complement the country’s cultural attractions.
The Forbes recognition follows travel trend-setters Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure which have respectively cited the largely unknown haven as “Asia’s next big thing” and « a place to watch ».
The “undiscovered paradise” which was first discovered by adventurous backpackers also featured recently on National Geographic Adventure Channel’s ‘The Lonely Planet: Roads Less Traveled’. Koh Rong covers 78 sq kms – a third the size of Koh Samui – with a population of just 1,500 in small fishing villages. Its beaches of pure white sand and crystal clear water have been compared to the Maldives.
Development of the Koh Rong as “Asia’s first environmentally planned resort island” for high-end tourism is now gathering pace.
Behind the visionary plan is one of Cambodia’s largest business, property and infrastructure conglomerates, The Royal Group. Headed by prominent tycoons Kith Meng, The Royal Group has been granted a 99-year lease by the Cambodian government to develop the island.
A team of leading international consultants has started realising the vision – with a Master Plan nearing completion by MAP Architects of Hong Kong, in consultation with world renowned environmental and airport consultants Scott Wilson.
Leading international property firm CB Richard Ellis is advisor and sole agent driving the marketing campaign targeting international tourism infrastructure developers and operators.
“The main focus is on developers with plans for exclusive, environmentally sensitive tourism projects,” said David Simister, Chairman, CBRE Thailand and Indochina.
Development of the undiscovered paradise island for high-end tourism includes an international airport and golf courses.
The Koh Rong archipelago is already setting the benchmark for luxury tourism off Cambodia’s coast. On a nearby island, Song Saa Resort is on schedule to open next year as Cambodia’s first international quality resort.
The exclusive private island resort is being developed by Brocon Investment Co., Ltd. It comprises 14 one and two-bedroom residential villas, with facilities including a 5-star ‘over water’ restaurant and bar, swimming pool, spa & wellness centre, yoga & meditation centre and water sports centre.
International investors snapped-up the villas at Song Saa ahead of completion and Mr. Simister said: “Song Saa is the first project to target foreign buyers and its runaway success indicates the interest in this area. The Koh Rong story is similar to that of Samui and Phuket 20 years ago. It is one of the last undiscovered paradises in South-East Asia.”
Rory Hunter, Chairman of Brocon Investment Co., Ltd. said: “The launch of Song Saa Island Resort has put Cambodia on the global map and paves the way for future developments in the area.”
Bart Kluskens, a conservation adviser for Song Saa Resort and a member of the panel consulted for the Forbes list, said: “The further you go from the mainland, the more and more beautiful the beaches are.”