Cambodia's government has given its permission for six local and foreign companies to develop tourist resorts worth up to US$627 million (€460 million) on islands off the country's coast, officials said Monday.
Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh, who is also vice chairman of the Cambodian Investment Board, signed agreements in principle with the companies last Friday, said Long Sakhan, president of one of the companies.
She said her real estate firm, Vimean Seila Ltd., received permission to build a hotel and resort on a 420-hectare (1,037-acre) area of an island off Kampot province, 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of the capital Phnom Penh.
She said another Cambodian company and four other foreign firms are planning to develop similar tourist resorts on four islands off the coast of Sihanoukville, a port 185 kilometers (115 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh.
A Cambodian Investment Board official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, confirmed the signing of the agreements, under which the companies will be able to lease areas on the islands for up to 99 years.
He said the companies' initial investment plans would amount to US$627 million (€460 million).
Tourism is a major hard currency earner for the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.
The government has recently been promoting the country's coastal region as a new tourist destination. Early this year, it reopened an airport in Sihanoukville in a bid to attract tourists, who have so far mostly flocked to the centuries-old Angkor temples in Siem Reap province in the northwest.
Last year, it granted permission for a Russian-run company to develop Koh Pos, or Snake Island, near Sihanoukville into a tourist resort with an initial investment of up to US$300 million (€220 million).