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Paradise in the making

Paradise in the making

Sales are already under way for villas being built on a pair of pristine islands in the Koh Rong archipelago that will be developed into a high-end resort

Photo by:

KAY KIMSONG

Song Saa Island Resort Chairman Rory Hunter with a brochure showing the planned development.

This has been great for both the environment and

the community.

An Australian company that advertises the islands off Sihanoukville as "undeveloped" as a selling point in its high-end villa development has already sold its first villa.

In its brochure for a multimillion-dollar island development - which is to include 15 villas and bungalows, a restaurant, bar, gymnasium, spa and pool - the Brocon Group urges investors to secure a piece of "unspoiled paradise".

"Unlike the islands of Thailand, which have seen rapid development over the past decade, Cambodia's islands remain largely undeveloped," the Brocon Group's Song Saa Island Resort company said in a June press release.

"Many are deserted, offering stunning scenery, abundant marine life and secluded white, sandy beaches."

Rory Hunter, chairman of Song Saa Island Resort, told the Post Thursday the first villa was sold off the plan last week to a foreigner married to a Cambodian woman.

He said he could not disclose how much the resort would cost to build, citing commercial confidentiality, but the Post understands the investment is approximately US$2.9 million.

"All I can say is that the multi-million dollars is for five stars, and its equivalence in quality is what you would expect," Hunter said.

The resort, due for completion in 2010, will be located on Koh Ouen and Koh Bong, two islands off the coast of Sihanoukville in the pristine Koh Rong archipelago.

Together known as Song Saa, or "the Sweethearts", the islands lie side-by-side and will be connected by a walkway.

Hunter said the company's business strategy was to build a five-star paradise resort, with five two-bedroom villas, 10 bungalows, a large restaurant, bar, gym, spa and other entertainments to attract high-end visitors.

"We call it the only paradise resort in Cambodia, and this is the only exclusive private resort with two islands connected by a bridge," he said.

He said he expected Sihanoukville Airport would cater to international flights from Hong Kong and Singapore.

However, the Post has been unable to confirm that any airlines will offer flights to the renovated Sihanoukville Airport, formerly known as Kang Keng Airport. Though authorities remain tight-lipped, it is understood that the airport is due to be reopened later this month.

Mohan Gunti, Advisor to Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said island resort investments were always aimed at "VIP tourism".

Plans for the infinity pool on Song Saa Island Resort. IMAGE SUPPLIED

VIPs like to see a pristine island, a virgin, uncrowded place, he said.

Mohan Gunti said the development company had to ensure the resort maintained its natural resources.

"To protect a sustainable environment, you need guidelines and good management with the relevant ministries," Mohan Gunti said.

Hunter said the company had already established a protected marine reserve, working with the commune, district and military of Koh Rong.

"We are stopping people fishing there and training them to do something else," he said.

"We have cleaned up the reef because it was very dirty. We cleaned up rubbish in the water. We began a coral programme because it is a very important reserve for marine life.

"We have a responsibility to set right standard."

In its press release, Brocon said it had privately funded a marine protected area around the islands' reefs. The resort had also employed a full-time marine biologist to monitor the reefs and help teach local communities more sustainable fishing methods, it said.

"This has been great for both the environment and the community but also provides the added attraction of having an expert on hand to take guests and villa owners out diving or snorkelling on the resort's own reef," Hunter said.

"The knowledge that the waters around the island are protected from fishing adds to the magic of this unique location. Guests and villa owners have their own thriving reef to explore literally right on their doorstep."

The company is looking to sell villas locally, and investors can buy into the project on a 99-year-lease.

The project is not necessary being built for foreigners, Hunter said.

The first villa sold is expected to be built within the next three months, with the resort due for launch at the end of 2010.

Hunter said villa owners could earn revenue from their investments by booking them out when not in personal use.

"What you get is revenue from that villa - the holiday home is a business," he said.

Though the model has been done before in Thailand, it has not yet been done in Cambodia, he said.

"If you buy a villa, you have the resort's management to look after of your villa when you are not there," he said.

"In that way, people don't have to worry about maintenance. The resort will look after everything."

The market is aimed at visitors who can afford to pay $300 to $400 a night, particularly foreigners living in Singapore or Hong Kong who are looking for new and exciting destinations for their holidays.

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