An unnamed private company is seeking to lease 308ha of land in the Cardamom Mountain Biodiversity Conservation Corridor for eco-tourism development, in the southeastern corner of Koh Kong province, according to provincial deputy governor Ouk Pheaktra.

Pheaktra told The Post that a team from the Ministry of Environment and the provincial administration had inspected the proposed eco-tourism site, in Boeung Preav commune, Sre Ambel district, on May 17 to assess its suitability for development.

He said the team supported the use of the site for eco-tourism purposes, but stressed that the company must take into account environmental protection, biodiversity conservation and must also adhere strictly to technical standards.

The proposal by the company, a joint venture between local and foreign companies, included a natural resort, recreational area and aviary. Pheaktra said the company assured his administration that the development will not impact upon the surrounding natural forest.

He also noted that, per the country’s investment law, only 30 per cent of the 308ha site is permitted to be developed, and that trees across the entire area must be kept intact.

He added that the lease of the land to the company will only last 50 years.

However, he conceded that the law could ultimately be overruled by the environment ministry and the government.

Pheaktra said his administration “always welcomes and supports companies” that are interested in leasing land and investing in establishing natural tourism areas in the province, as they will be participating in the development of ecotourism and contributing to the conservation of natural resources, while boosting the local economy.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin told The Post that she supported the development of the natural resort area, noting that Koh Kong province still lacks sufficient natural resort areas to meet tourist demand. She said proposals for such developments have historically been sparse, and that planned sites have been small.

Sivlin said that relative to the upward trend of demand from both domestic and foreign tourists, the development of eco-tourism projects has been lacking.

She also noted the high income potential of such developments, and urged further investment and studies on more large-scale eco-tourism projects in the province, saying that they would further spotlight the unique form of holidaying.

“Koh Kong has a lot of potential for eco-tourism. We support investment in it as it will benefit both locals as well as those across the Kingdom. If this project is bigger, it will attract more potential investors to the region,” she said.

However, Sivlin urged the developers of the ecotourism project to strictly adhere to the conditions and legal standards stipulated in their agreement with the government, especially when it comes to the conservation of biodiversity and culture in the area.

Data from the Ministry of Tourism shows that the tourism sector represented 1.8 percent of Cambodia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, falling from three per cent in 2020.