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Is Kampot the Kingdom’s latest hotspot?

Jason Boken / Khmer Times Share:
A drone photo taken at Yellow Sun Hostel, Kampot. Supplied

With the steep decline in tourist numbers throughout Cambodia, there are questions over how businesses will keep their heads above water.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, a number of businesses around Cambodia are feeling the effects on their business.

But one usually quieter town seems to be booming: Kampot. expatriates and locals alike have decided to head to one of the country’s most renowned beauty spots.

Kampot is a small, clean town built around the Prek Toek Chhou River. This river compared with the Tonle Sap is relatively clean and people even swim in it. The town also boasts lots of attractive French architecture dating back to the first half of the 20th century and, until
the 1950s, Kampot was Cambodia’s main port.

These days the town is full of a variety of lively bars and restaurants and even hosts big events attracting international DJs. That, along with the natural beauty of the place with its waterfalls, mountain views and national parks, leave it clear as to why people are flocking there. Johny Kort owner of Yellow Sun Hostel, Kampot, said: “Since the re-opening of a lot of bars and restaurants in Kampot, we have had a lot of customers both local and Western check into our hostel. We have adapted the business so that it stays profitable but also makes things affordable for the people staying with us.”

Local businesses are attracting crowds from all parts of the country whether it be Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and even the islands off the coast of Sihanoukville. Sihanoukville is one of the main sources after the Chinese “takeover” and has much poor infrastructure.

From 2017 to May 2020, approximately 1,355 construction projects were approved, occupying 13,107,209 square metres.

Lots of expats who before enjoyed living in the-once sleepy beach town of Sihanoukville are now looking for a change.

Tom Powell a local business owner of Top Cat Cinema and Bar, Kampot, said: “I moved my business from Sihanoukville to Kampot about 18 months ago. Despite the sharp decline in tourists arriving from international destinations because of COVID-19, we have seen an upturn in tourists arriving from other parts of the Kingdom, mainly Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the islands. This influx of new visitors has been a real boost to a lot of local businesses, including my own.”

Soy Sinol, director of Kampot Provincial Tourism Department, said: “Tourism started to pick up here from mid-April and has carried on  doing so. Reasons include implementing safety rules throughout this COVID-19 pandemic and the safety of the town. “It is fruit season and people love our durian. People also love to come to Kampot for the fresh aquatic food. People love to visit our tourist sites such as Toek Chhou and Bokor Mountain,” Powell added.

When borders re-open, it is hoped tourists will come back and help one of the country’s pillar industries.

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