Discovering a rising beach star

SIHANOUKVILLE, 15 February 2018: Late December 2017, a brand new 67-unit resort opened on an island off the Cambodia’s southern coast. Its owners claim it will set a new benchmark as the country’s first truly five-star resort experience.

The Royal Sands Koh Rong is located on Koh Rong island in the Gulf of Thailand, 25 km (approximately 60 minutes by boat) off the coast of Sihanoukville in southern Cambodia. It is the country’s second largest island.

TTR Weekly asked the resort’s founder and a major shareholder, Luzi Matzig, how he found his way to this new venture after decades pioneering tourism in neighbouring Thailand.

Q. You are inextricably associated with Thai travel and resorts and the Royal Sands Koh Rong is your first resort beyond Thailand. Why this project, why Cambodia?

I stumbled upon this most beautiful beach by chance as a friend of mine had invited me to join his hotel project on a beach in Sihanoukville, which was not suitable as the plot was too narrow and overcrowded.

Next day, we surveyed the surrounding islands and came across a long beach on Koh Rong, which I believe is one of the best in Asia. The choice of location was clear from then on.

Peter Kaelli and Luzi Matzig, pioneering partners.

Q. You have chosen a remote island off southern Cambodia with air and sea transfer challenges. How are you resolving them?

A. Sihanoukville has a good international airport, which is served regularly by several airlines from Siem Reap, Ho Chi Minh and Kuala Lumpur, plus charter flights from various Chinese cities. It is only a matter of time until Thai airlines realise the great potential of this up-coming new beach destination.

Q. What is the signature feature of the Royal Sands Koh Rong  and how will it differ from other resorts in southern Cambodia?

A. The Royal Sand Koh Rong is setting a new standard for five-star beach resorts in Cambodia being the only resort right now observing a 50-metre off-set from the beach. Plus it is using solar energy as much as possible and has its own proper wastewater plant. We also bottle our own drinking water in recyclable glass bottles. A 550-metre frontage of beach is cleaned twice daily with a special sand-cleaning tractor imported from Australia. The resort also has a proper incinerator to deal with garbage that cannot be turned into compost or recycled.










Q. Who are your financial partners, what are the investment costs and how long will it take to achieve ROI?

A. The Thai investors hold a 60% majority with 40% of the shares held by the Royal Group of Cambodia. Total investment is USD30 million with a nine-year projected ROI.

Q. Why have you chosen to manage the property rather than develop it and then outsource it to a hotel chain?

A. Peter Kaelli, a senior Thai hotelier who has a 10% share in the project, is taking care of managing the resort. Big hotel management chains have a tendency to ask for fees that are too high in the first place and then invariably they burden owners with various hidden extra costs.

Q. Who are the potential guests, the geographical and demographic market mix and what role will overseas tour operators play as opposed to OTAs?

A. Being new in the market we have to wait and see how the situation develops, but we expect a tour operator share of 40 to 60%, depending on the season, 35 to 45% through OTA bookings and the rest direct bookings generated locally and from our own website.

During the winter season the majority will be European guests, while during May to October there will be more Asian guests. The resort will primarily cater to independent travellers, honeymooners plus some small incentive when space is available.










Q. Looking forward, what does the government of Cambodia need to do to ensure southern resorts prosper with safeguards to conserve and protect the environment?

A. The Cambodian government has this month declared all islands off the Sihanoukville coast as a new marine national park so this should help keep development under control.

Q. How do you see your resort 10 years from now? Will it be the next beach playground competing with Thailand’s resorts?

“I could very well imagine that within 10 years from now Koh Rong will have developed to become a major beach destination with many international hotel brands, mostly four and five-star, plus a marina and possibly its own airport in the middle of the island.”

Right now – we have already established helicopter transfers as an option, to serve our VIP guests. A one-way transfer from Sihanoukville’s airport to our resort would take just 15 minutes and cost USD700 per helicopter trip with seating for four passenger.









The Island

Cambodia’s second largest island, Koh Rong (Khmer for “Rong Island”). Its name is something of a mystery. “Rong” is an old Khmer term for a cave or tunnel. It’s also used to describe a form of shelter, although some of the islanders say Koh Rong is named after a person long since forgotten in the mists of time.

The island is its own “Sangkat” (local district), located 25 km (16 miles) off the port town of Sihanoukville in the Gulf of Thailand.

It covers an area of approximately 78 sq km (30 sq miles) and boasts 43 kms (27 miles) of pristine beaches. There are four village communities within the boundaries of Koh Rong, namely Koh Touch, Doeum D’keuw, Prek Svay and Sok San.

Its tropical climate provides a year round temperature of between 27 and 30 centigrade and a consistently stable water temperature that hovers around 30 centigrade. There are two distinct seasons; the monsoon or wet season from June to September and the dry season from October to May.

Surprisingly, the island’s vegetation ranges from dense jungle to savannah, which dominates the interior. Many tree species are to be found on Koh Rong, including native teak, tamarind, fig and banyan, which provide a habitat for animals, such as monkeys, birds, snakes and even buffalo. The surrounding waters are teaming with tropical fish and coral.

It’s yours to enjoy, but please remember that part of Koh Rong is a Marine Reserve and therefore all coral, shells and marine life are protected.

The Resort

Royal Sands Koh Rong features 67 units a mix of one, two and three-bedroom villas. Apart from private pools for some of the villas, the resort’s centrepiece is its pool close to the main lobby, Ocean Restaurant, Chill Lounge, Spa and fitness centre.

The rooms

The 67 villas reflect a commitment to providing an ambience of luxurious relaxation and calming inspiration. The bedrooms are spacious and positioned so as to allow guests to enjoy the best views from their beds.

Ocean View Villas (79sqm) 29 units

The Ocean View Villas are situated on the upper part of the property and offer views across the Gulf of Thailand. They feature a spacious bedroom and bathroom with indoor and outdoor rain showers, a sofa and outdoor day-bed area.

Beachfront Villas (79sqm) 8 units

The Beachfront Villas offer an ocean view with direct access to beach. They feature a spacious bedroom, and bathroom with indoor and outdoor rain showers, a sofa as well as an outdoor day-bed area.

Ocean View Pool Villas (147sqm) 17 units

The Ocean View Pool Villas offer considerably more space, with the addition of their very own pool. Like the Ocean View Villas, they feature a spacious bedroom and bathroom with indoor and outdoor rain showers, bathtub, a sofa and outdoor ‘sala’ lounge area. A table and chairs are set up on the outdoor terrace.

Beachfront Pool Villas (147sqm) 10 units

The Beachfront Pool Villas are situated at the front of the resort and overlook the beach. They feature a spacious bedroom and bathroom with indoor and outdoor rain showers, bathtub, a personal swimming pool, sofa and outdoor ‘Sala’ lounge area. Rooms are cool & comfortable with all the latest creature comforts. A table and chairs are set up on the outdoor terrace.

Two-Bedroom Ocean View Pool Villas (312sqm) 2 units

The ultimate luxury retreat, these units offer two identical villas ideal for a family. In addition to a spacious bedroom and bathroom, both rooms offer a shared lounge area, as well as a 15-metre personal swimming pool.

Three-Bedroom Beachfront Pool Villa (395sqm) 1 unit

Offering ultimate in privacy, the Royal Sands’ premium villa is located at the far end of the resort, with direct access to the beach yet within easy reach of the Chill Lounge and main pool. The three-bedroom villa offers two independent bedrooms on the ground floor, set around an 18-metre private pool, with a third bedroom on the upper floor which is accessed by a private staircase. This room offers unparalleled views of the resort and the ocean beyond from its open-air terrace.

The boat Transfer


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