The Preah Sihanouk provincial tourism scene is set to get an image makeover as authorities and the private sector work together to roll out a series of development plans that complement and promote effective implementation of the forthcoming Preah Sihanouk Provincial Tourism Development Plan for 2021-2025.

A meeting to discuss the latest draft of the five-year plan was held on February 4 in the province, with the participation of deputy director-general for tourism development Sok Sokun, provincial deputy governor Long Dimanche, civil servants, and major players in the province’s travel, hotel and restaurant scene.

On the agenda were a number of considerations intended to support the plan and ascertain that implementation proceeds smoothly.

These include planning; a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis; visions, goals and objectives; 2021-2025 tourism forecasts; and relevant development plan directions.

Sokun stressed the importance of the plan in boosting tourism and broader socio-economic growth, and improving the preservation of natural and cultural resources.

The plan is also expected to turn Preah Sihanouk into a safe, attractive and internationally competitive beach destination, he said.

“A successful tourism development plan requires the support and good cooperation of all parties, and market competition is fixated on travel packages. On the other hand, Preah Sihanouk has an international airport where large aircraft can land, as well as beaches and archipelagos that are rich in tourism potential,” Sokun said.

Nonetheless, along with all these valuable assets, he said, the province also faces a litany of challenges, such as the copious amounts of plastic bags and other waste scattered throughout the Tomnup Roloak area – northeast of the famed Kbal Chhay waterfalls – that undermine tourism ambitions.

“We want to turn the Tomnup Roloak area into an attractive tourist destination, and the tourism development plan will be a compass for tourism recovery after the Covid-19 crisis,” he added.

The provincial deputy governor also expressed strong support for the plan, which he said requires the participation of relevant departments and units, as well as tour operators, investors and other private sector actors.

“The provincial administration is committed to supporting the Preah Sihanouk tourism development plan,” Dimanche affirmed.

He said the government is also preparing a master plan for the future development of Preah Sihanouk, having designated the province as a “model multi-purpose special economic zone”, and a “rising star” in the Cambodian southwest, along with the other three coastal provinces – Koh Kong, Kep and Kampot.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin told The Post that the master plan and large-scale development of road infrastructure would help turn Preah Sihanouk into a more attractive destination for sightseers, especially once the world is able to moderate Covid-associated threats to a suitable degree.

In addition, building and maintaining a solid reputation for clean beaches, seaports and international airports is also an important source of support for the tourism sector, she said.

“The launch of a series of tourism development plans, along with accomplishments of development in all areas, will help make Preah Sihanouk a sought-after recreational destination for national and international visitors, in the near future,” Sivlin said.