L AND has been put aside for a new "hotel district" in Siem Reap, modeled
on the Indonesian island of Bali.
The aim is have about seven high-class hotels built by the Year 2000, according to
Vann Moulyvann, vice-president of the new APSARA agency responsible for Siem Reap
The Ministry of Tourism would soon issue specifications for the hotels' construction,
right down to "the architecture, pieces of furniture and what the bathrooms
should be like," he said.
The plan was based on the Bali town of Dusa Nua, established in 1973 to provide a
zone of high-class hotels "completely separated from the [original] town."
Moulyvann, who recently visited Dusa Nua, said it was a "beautiful success".
There were 11 five-star hotels, all built in Indonesian architecture styles and none
higher than the tallest coconut tree.
Handicrafts made by local villagers were sold in shops in the hotels, boosting the
local economy without letting tourism spoil the traditional lives of Indonesians.
Moulyvann said a similar strategy allowing Siem Reap to have "a high-level of
tourism but not to be polluted by tourism", was necessary.
With the government aiming for one million tourists a year to visit the Angkor temples,
many officials were worried that Siem Reap and its people could be "destroyed
"In five years you will have prostitutes, Sida [Aids], casinos, traffic, lunar
parks," he said, adding that the effect on local people could be immense.
Government officials had two options for new hotels in Siem Reap - to allow them
to be built within the town center, letting tourists mix closely with the local population,
or to aim at developing a "second town" for tourists.
After evaluating tourism policies in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Europe
and elsewhere, officials believed the second option - and Dusa Nua model - most suitable.
Guesthouses in Siem Reap center could remain but a new "hotel district"
- or eventually a "hotel town" - would be established further away.
An area of land several kilometers east of Angkor Wat had been designated for this
purpose. The land, which Moulyvann said was infertile and disused, measured about
2km by 6km but only about 4 square kilometers of it would be needed in the shorter
Loans would be sought from international agencies to improve water, electricity,
sanitation and other services to Siem Reap people. They would be paid back through
the sale of services to both local people and foreign developers.
Before the end of the year, the government would seek applications of interest from
consortiums of investors wanting to build hotels, golf courses and so on in the hotel
But officials were determined to preserve the character of Siem Reap, because "we
would not like the Angkor temples to be a lunar park, but a site of pilgramage."
He said he was unaware of a widely reported Japanese proposal to build a mini-railway
system around the temples.
About 150,000 tourists had visited Angkor so far this year. Officials expected to
achieve their target of 1 million early next century.
Moulyvann said tourist numbers were being limited by the capacity of Siem Reap airport,
which meant there would be some time to develop tourism services before tourism numbers
Enlarging Siem Reap airport, possibly allowing direct flights from other countries,
would cost around $30m.
A new airport would cost from $100 million to $240 million.