Cambodia “received” two new island tourism investment projects with total registered capital of $37.7 million in the first half (H1) of 2023, as the government targets 4.4 million international visitors and 16 million domestic trips by locals for the entire year, according to Ministry of Tourism permanent secretary of state Tith Chantha.

These were the Koh Muoy and Koh Totoeng projects in Preah Sihanouk and Koh Kong provinces, respectively, Chantha noted in a report on the Kingdom’s tourism plans through to 2024. Based on similar language used in prior reports, The Post interprets this to mean that these were the sole two developments of their kind approved by the government over the first six months of the year.

According to him, this was down from six such developments a year earlier worth a combined $3.770 billion, which represented an increase of roughly 1,000 per cent on January-June 2021.

He described cultural and natural tourism as a “green gold” priority sector for Cambodia, highlighting the huge positive effects it can have on livelihoods and socio-economic development, particularly by generating and facilitating employment, income and export opportunities.

To prop up the travel industry and protect the welfare and livelihoods of the populace, the government has introduced several laws, regulations and other measures, key of which is the 2020-2025 tourism recovery roadmap, he stressed.

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter chairman Thourn Sinan expressed optimism for the positive effects that the new island projects might bring for the travel industry and overall economy.

“I’m delighted, and I support additional tourism investments, as the government works to build more roads and infrastructure to encourage economic growth across the board,” he told The Post on July 6.

However, he suggested that those involved with the projects protect and promote the conservation of Cambodia’s forests and natural resources, in addition to bringing more tourists and investors to the Kingdom.

“We may hold the developer of a successful European-invested development project on Koh Krabey [in Preah Sihanouk] up as an example, given how admirably they’ve managed the island’s natural resources,” Sinan opined.

On a related note, local company HTTH Island Investment Co Ltd earlier this year was reported to be conducting a feasibility study for a 16.68sq km eco-tourism development project on Koh Thmey island, just southeast of Prey Nop district’s Ream National Park in Preah Sihanouk. No updates on that undertaking were immediately available.

Two officers at that company are listed in the Ministry of Commerce’s business registry as “Hun To” and “Leng Hour” – both men with the “oknha” Khmer honorific – with the former being the senior.

Meanwhile, Chantha indicated in the report that international visitors to the Kingdom and domestic trips made by Cambodians in full-year 2023 are expected to total about 4.4 million and 16 million, respectively. He also anticipated that annual foreign visitors would reach the seven-million mark by 2026, breaking the record set in 2019.

This is a year later than predicted on July 3 by tourism minister Thong Khon, who disclosed that the 2023 total had reached 2.57 million as of end-June, or the equivalent of about 77 per cent of the 3.338 million cited by the ministry for January-June 2019.

To recap, the ministry put the totals for international visitors and domestic trips made by locals in January-May 2023 at 2.164 million and 10.043 million, respectively, the former of which was 74.91 per cent of the 2.888 million tallied during the same time of 2019.

The number of foreign visitors and amount in international tourism receipts for 2022 were logged at 2.277 million and $1.415 billion, respectively 34.44 per cent and 28.8 per cent of the all-time highs of 6.611 million and $4.919 billion recorded for 2019.

Domestic trips by Cambodians, on the other hand, were posted at 13.934 million last year, exceeding 2019’s 11.320 million by 23.10 per cent.

It should be noted that the ministry has hinted that statistics for domestic trips may be extrapolations from data provided by managers of tourism-associated establishments and attractions, as well as from related sources.

And a visitor in the context of these statistics is a person travelling to the Kingdom, “staying at least overnight and not exceeding a specific period for leisure, recreation, business and other legal tourism purposes; and not relevant to the purpose of permanent residence or any remunerated activities”, as defined by the ministry.