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Local and international tourists enjoy the beach in Preah Sihanouk province
Local and international tourists enjoy the beach in Preah Sihanouk province early last year. Heng Chivoan

Policy review for beach areas

In a bid to increase tourist arrivals and investment along Cambodia’s coastline, the Ministry of Tourism is considering relaxing regulations for foreign visitors.

Visa requirements and rules governing property ownership in Cambodia’s beach areas are being reviewed, Tourism Minister Thong Khon said yesterday.

“To attract more tourists, the options are whether to reduce the cost of tourist visas or provide visas for free to tourists who enter Cambodia through Sihanoukville’s port or its international airport,” he said.

Sihanoukville’s deep-sea port, along with an $18-million Kampot ferry terminal expected to be completed in 2019, will serve as the main entry points for tourists entering via waterways.

Khon said plans were under way to add a restaurant, a customs office, and a shopping mall to Sihanoukville’s port.

“More than 30 cruise ships holding around 1,800 foreign tourists each, arrived to Cambodia through Sihanoukville [last year], but we do not have a proper terminal to welcome them yet.”

The minister said the plan would consider the possibility of allowing tourists to purchase holiday homes in Cambodia.

“Now we are studying this regulation and we want to bring it to another level where foreigners can buy and own the house as their second home within our hypothetical tourism area,” he said, adding that the policy would first need government approval. Khon did not say when the new proposal would be ready for review.

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Working Group, said he welcomed the visa-fee reduction initiative to attract more visitors, and supported improving tourism infrastructure to better integrate with the region.

Vandy said, however, that a monitoring group was needed to check on the new development projects in Cambodia’s coastal areas.

“There have been incentives for developers in the past. More than 20 islands have been given to investors to develop, but only six of those development projects are running,” he said.

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