Amber Kampot eco-resort soaks up the sun

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A view of sunset at the Amber Kampot resort where visitors can wake-board, water-ski or just float down the river by day and enjoy island dining with cocktails at night. SUPPLIED

Famed for its scenic river surrounded by lush greenery, the sleepy town of Kampot – in the province bearing the same name – is home to a hidden getaway that is environmentally sustainable and offers guests a greener vacation with a smaller carbon footprint.

Situated alongside the Kampot River and nestled in the foothills of the Elephant Mountains, Amber Kampot is a premium resort offering villa accommodations that provide a luxurious escape.

The resort offers comfortable facilities and tremendous luxury but beyond that it relies heavily on the beauty of the natural surroundings to satisfy guests while they experience sunset cocktails, island dining, wake-boarding and water-skiing.

The eco-friendly Amber Kampot resort claims that its more than one hectare grounds is free of all plastic rubbish and is cleaned-up regularly to keep it that way and Taihei Yamada – founder of Amber International Holdings – would like to see all of Kampot and its area resorts, guesthouses and hotels follow suit to create a sustainable hospitality industry there.

“We want Kampot to become a well-known international destination where the natural environment is part of what attracts people to Amber Kampot and other resorts,” Yamada tells The Post.

Yamada believes that Kampot could become a leader in sustainable tourism by planting more trees, cleaning up the city and building a solar energy grid to compliment things it has now like its colonial buildings, great seafood and durian and its proximity to the river and to Bokor Mountain.

“If people say Amber Kampot is the best that is an honour. We simply want to provide high quality services in a sustainable way to help improve the image of Kampot overall and change people’s perceptions about the city,” says Ayub Yuliainto, the general manager of Amber Kampot.

Amber Kampot says it is trying to set an example for other resorts to encourage them to go green and adopt an environmentally sustainable business model to bring about the transformation of the whole tourism sector.

“The gains will be in the long term. Improving the community requires that we invest time and effort, but when the city becomes cleaner and greener we are sure that it will attract more tourists,” said Yuliainto.

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Amber Kampot’s 25 pool villas and main building are powered by a solar grid with 144 solar panels. SUPPLIED

With the help of A&I Energy – a company specialising in solar panel installations – the Amber Kampot’s 25 pool villas and main building are now powered by solar energy.

“Amber Kampot is now equipped with 144 solar panels producing up to 77 Kwh at peak time and the system provides about 290 Kwh per day to cover most of our basic needs,” Yuliainto tells The Post.

Yuliainto points out that the city has a unique natural beauty with the mountain and river, plus a wonderful lake and caves nearby. And its proximity to Sihanoukville and Kep is a big advantage in terms of convenience.

For most tourists in past years, Kampot has been seen as a place to stay for one night on average before moving on and often heading down the coast towards Kep or Sihanoukville.

However, the disruption of tourism due to the pandemic could turn out to have an upside if some of the old patterns for travel within Cambodia are done away with and the businesses that remain get the opportunity to establish new standards like increasing the average length of stay in Kampot to two or three nights, Yuliainto explains.

“We need to solve some basic issues here like the garbage and improving the infrastructure first and then secondly we need to do more to promote the city,” says Yuliainto.

In August 2021, Amber Kampot launched a pilot project of its own in Traeuy Kaoh village to try tackling the waste management issues there.

Together with Global Action for Environment Awareness, the resort management met the chief of the village who offered his support for the initiatives and said he looks forward to having a cleaner village.

“We are going to educate the people on how important it is to take the garbage issue seriously and together – with the community – we would like to promote a clean city.

“We are sure that tourists would travel more often to a destination that is clean. If Kampot is able to maintain cleanliness, it will perform better than other cities in Cambodia over the longer term,” Yuliainto says.

Yuliainto – who has been working in the Kingdom for over ten years – points out that Cambodia is still importing electricity from its neighbours with billions of dollars spent each year on it while consumers are stuck with higher energy prices.

Amber Kampot’s solution has been to try to reduce its reliance on the power grid and become a self-sufficient property through solar energy.

“Because of imports, electricity costs in Cambodia are relatively high – among the highest in the Southeast Asia – and the solar panels solution can help by reducing the electricity bill,” he says.

Yuliainto says that “on-grid” solar is the best choice but the resort chooses to go hybrid because it has a battery and is not affected by the capacity charge.

Though he admits that going green often requires an expensive investment initially, it wasn’t a ruinous amount of money and it would pay for itself and then some over time through energy savings.

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An aerial view of the resort at night shows its proximity to the Kampot River and the town itself. SUPPLIED

“And importantly, our guests are very supportive of this initiative because it reflects their personal values and so the solar panels become a feature to highlight for marketing purposes,” said Yuliainto.

Amber Kampot also tries to support the local community and businesses as much as possible by purchasing local products.

“We buy as much locally made stuff as we can. Our ceramics, hyacinth rugs and rattan baskets are all made in Siem Reap,” he says.

Yamada tells The Post that Amber International contributes 3 per cent of its income to a fund for the community for developing infrastructure and providing hospitality or tourism industry job training.

Yamada says the tourism industry has been badly affected by the pandemic with many great businesses that were profitable before Covid simply going under and the crisis stretching on longer than anyone anticipated it would at the outset.

Yamada is thankful, however, that Amber Kampot was able to survive through this difficult period and he hopes the worst of it is now behind us.

“As for Kampot, I think we are very lucky. During the pandemic, we experienced a lot fewer disruptions like curfews or lockdowns compared to other cities in Cambodia,” he says.

Now – because the Cambodian government has done such a great job with its vaccination campaign – it should put Cambodia in prime position to be among the top destinations to visit as soon as restrictions are lifted, according to Yuliainto.

“With our proximity to Phnom Penh – and with recent upgrades providing much improved road conditions to ease the journey along – we hope to see more people travelling down from the capital on weekends and holidays as well.

“Whether you are travelling thousands of kilometres or from just an hour down the road, please know that you are welcome at Amber Kampot and we look forward to your stay,” Yuliainto says.

Amber Kampot is located in Ta Ang village of Sangkat Traeuy Kaoh in Kampot province’s Kampot town, which is about 3.5 km from the Durian roundabout in downtown Kampot.

For more information, you can find Amber Kampot on Facebook: @amberkampot2 Or on the web: https://amber-kampot.com