A 2022-2026 master plan has been rolled out to develop a Mekong River archipelago in the northern reaches of Kratie province into a choice tourist destination, support a local ecotourism-based community, promote ethnic minority cultures, and further national resource conservation.
Koh Samseb Community Based Ecotourism, the community involved in the five-year master plan, is based in Khsach Leav village, O’Krieng commune, Sambor district near the Koh Samseb archipelago, the name of which translates from Khmer as “30 islands”.
But despite its name, the area is actually home to hundreds of islands covered with lush green forest, sandy beaches, flooded forests and rich biodiversity, including more than 200 species of birds, along with rare fishes that inhabit its deep pools.
The provincial Department of Tourism conducted a number of preliminary studies and developed the master plan in collaboration with regional non-profit Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP) and the Kratie Provincial Administration.
The master plan aims to orient tourism development in the area for the community to grow, and focuses on product development, marketing and promotion; human resource development; and the management of waste and the tourism environment.
It is expected to raise both visitorship to the area and revenues for the community by 10 per cent each year, for a total 61.05 per cent boost by 2026 compared to 2021 levels.
Kratie provincial deputy governor Pen Lynat told The Post that the master plan would not only drive development of the archipelago, but would also spur growth in the provincial tourism sector as a whole.
Although domestic and foreign travellers to Kratie tend to go for the dolphins, Lynat assured that the additional infrastructure at Koh Samseb would provide more options for travellers.
He described the landscape of the archipelago as “very beautiful, with beaches and flooded forests with the potential for tourism”.
“This site we’ve just gotten wind of is a large deep-pool area, and an [ecotourism] community was established to increase the incomes of locals, and especially to support the Bunong and Kuy ethnic minority groups,” Lynat said.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin depicted ecotourism as one of the four main pillars of the tourism sector, saying Koh Samseb is a prime example of what CATA wants, to bring in sightseers to the Kingdom for longer vacations.
Sivlin underscored that Cambodia traditionally invokes images of cultural heritage among tourists, and ecotourism, albeit to a far lesser extent. Thus, the association seeks to encourage stakeholders to put the word out there about Koh Samseb, she said.
She added that ecotourism is a major attraction for tourists, especially those from overseas, and a sustainable kind of travel that offers employment opportunities and improves the livelihoods of locals. Hence, she reckoned, the master plan “will definitely be an attractive and motivating force for further tourism flows”.