The draft Coastal Master Plan is likely to get approval from the Ministry of Tourism and other ministries in the middle of this year, while Otres Beach has been selected by the ministry as the template ensuring bays and beaches are environmentally friendly in order to draw more domestic and international tourists to the coast, a senior official at the ministry said.
Neb Samuth, Tourism General Director, told Khmer Times that the Coastal Master Plan will ensure all beaches and bays in Preah Sihanouk province meet international environmental standards. He said Otres Beach was selected as the template because it is viewed as one of the most beautiful bays in the world, with three kilometers of white sand and crystal-clear sea. All bays in the coastal province will see renovations under the master plan.
Mr. Samuth said it reserves 50 meters from the sea for tourists and that these areas will include cycling paths, strolling areas, information booths, gardens and food stalls.
The concept of coastal management used in the plan is from France and the design is by Build Arts Construction, he added.
“This is the first coastal master plan in Cambodia, and it will attract more and more national and international tourists to visit the coastal provinces, especially Preah Sihanouk,” Mr. Samuth said. He added that prior to implementing the plan, the ministry and provincial officials will inform beachside vendors about it and discuss it with them.
When asked whether the plan would impact those already operating businesses along the coast, Mr. Samuth said officials are working to ensure that it will not cause damage to those who already have businesses along the beach. “We will solve all conflicts if they arise. We will follow the policy. However, by law the coastal zone is for the public not for private [businesses] and what we are trying to do is for Cambodian people and our country to make sure that our coast is clean and beautiful,” Mr. Samuth said.
Nou Sophal, director of tourism for Preah Sihanouk province, told Khmer Times that a coastal master plan would be good for the country and especially for his province because of its still untapped potential for tourism.
Mr. Sophal said more than 1.5 million tourists visited the province last year, up more than 14 percent over 2014. Domestic tourists accounted for the lion’s share, about 1.15 million. Domestic tourism surged almost 20 percent year on year, he said. Chinese tourists last year top the list of foreign tourists by country of origin, he added.
Ho Vandy, an advisor to the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the master plan, saying it would draw more tourists to the coast and prevent pollution.
“The impact on [beachside] vendors is inevitable, but they must understand the public benefit rather than individual benefits,” Mr. Vandy said, adding that all stakeholders must work together to ensure the coast lives up to its potential.