The government has greenlit five small-scale ecotourism projects in southwestern Bokor town’s Prek Tnort commune of Kampot province, within Preah Monivong Bokor National Park.

The move is designed to create job opportunities and build a considerable head of steam behind tourism enhancement initiatives, consistent with the government master plan and other development regulations.

Ministry of Environment secretary of state Neth Pheaktra on October 25 said the projects would unlock the tourism potential of the area, open new avenues of job creation, and improve the livelihoods of locals.

Pheaktra was speaking at a meeting with representatives of the five developers. Companies investing in the area are currently restricted to a single development no larger than 5ha.

Ecotourism is an important segment of the tourism industry, he said, adding that strict and mixed use protected areas have been instrumental in supporting the sector during the Covid-19 crisis.

“Cambodian holidaymakers have been making a lot of trips to domestic tourist attractions and eco-tourism sites as of late, bringing a boost to local economies and new jobs for the people, as part of concerted efforts to beef up protection and conservation efforts for natural resources,” Pheaktra said.

Kampot provincial Department of Tourism director Soy Sinol told The Post on October 26 that the national park is endowed with the “greatest potential” for natural tourism in Cambodia, as an ecosystem powerhouse on the coastline, with rich biodiversity and distinct climates.

He voiced support for the projects, agreeing that turning select areas of the park into recreational ecotourism spots would be consequential in the drive to woo more national and international tourists to the area.

“We need to further diversify tourism products to meet the demands of travellers, and to manage and develop the area – as a highest priority task – to pay off for the sector,” he said.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents adviser Ho Vandy said ecotourism, agro-tourism and creative tourism in the Kingdom have been growing rapidly.

He said ecotourism investments in the park, which has remained a major tourist hotspot since the French colonial period, would help to allure more tourists, aided by a tropical climate that brings suitable mild weather for living and for day-trippers to unwind.

But Vandy argues that other forms of investment should be allowed in Bokor, much like in Kirirom National Park, to potentially entice a greater number of retired and older guests to stay in the area and kick back for a while.

He believes that an ecotourism and creative tourism boom would bring out the attractiveness of the area, underpinned by its long-standing and wholesome reputation.

“Hence construction must take into account of any impact from the perspective of residents and tourists, not only to maintain its splendour, but to ensure that development is in accordance with the government’s master plan and other blueprints,” Vandy said.