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Ecotourism resort cancelled

Capital shortfall stops $6m development near Bou Sra waterfall in Mondulkiri

THE DEVELOPER behind a US$6 million ecotourism project at Bou Sra waterfall in Mondulkiri province has pulled the plug on the scheme, a company representative said Sunday.

Sar Lar Investment Co was set to develop the Bou Sra Waterfall Resort, a complex of 40 hotels, restaurants, and shops surrounding the well-known attraction.

It was hoped the development would sell souvenirs produced by Mondulkiri’s ethnic minorities, benefiting them economically.

On Sunday, Mann Sinoeun, chief of Bou Sra Waterfall Resort and representative of the Sar Lar Investment Co, confirmed that the development had been halted because of capital concerns.

“We told the provincial hall that we decided to stop the project investment on March 20 because of the housing development business of Okhna Sar Lar in Phnom Penh cannot sell anything. That why we don’t have enough of a budget to continue the project,” he said.

The company owns a 99-year lease on the Mondulkiri site and has already spent $2 million clearing forest and constructing a road. The project was due to be complete in 2013.

“We have already completed a garden and a set of stairs down to the Bou Sra waterfall from the top,” he added.

The Mondulkiri Tourism Department confirmed Sunday that it is temporarily taking care of the site.

“We expected that when this ecotourism project was finished it would meet tourist demand for accommodation and would be of the great benefit to the indigenous people in the area.

“But now everything will not come true because the project has stopped,” said Ngin Sovimean, director of Mondulkiri Tourism Department.
He added that the province currently has only two hotels and 21 guesthouses, which has led to a shortage of accommodation and dining options for visitors.

Representatives from the tourism body say they hope the resort will be developed, in time, by another investor.

According to Mann Sinoeun, 1,000 tourists came to the area every day during Khmer New Year – an increase of 15 to 20 percent compared to the same period in 2009.

Last week, Poullang Doung of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) advised that eco-tourism could be a means of developing Cambodia’s tourism sector.

ADB’s senior country economist Eric Sidgwick also stated that the Kingdom’s tourism sector is “lagging” its main competitors, despite signs that visitor numbers are recovering in 2010.

The organisation recommended that the Kingdom look to build up tourist centres away from the Angkor Wat World Heritage site in order to boost long-term development.

Additional reporting by Ellie Dyer

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