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Boom Town Sihanoukville

July 28, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s once sleepy beachside town, has seen 30 per cent increases in hotel room rates over the past year.  Expect rate rises to continue – from luxury properties to backpacker dorms, European style resorts to thatched roof beach bungalows. 

A boom is underway. Its coastline centred around Ochheuteal and Serendipity, so named in 2001 by an American living on the beach, is awash with investment money from China.

Fuelling demand is a relentless passion for gambling.  During the past two years 30 new licensed casinos have been built in Sihanoukville. They appeal to mainland Chinese who are prohibited from gambling at home.  The 120,000 Chinese visiting the city last year as well as 5,000 local Chinese workers, developers and investors are being hosted by a swath of new hotels, restaurants and entertainment facilities – all funded from China.

Investment has been underpinned by support for Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative.  However, developers have wasted little time cashing in on booming land prices and strong demand from investors often holding cash.  After Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville is now considered the second most popular market for tourists and investors from China.

Last week a US$1 billion resort project named Wisney World was launched with plans to include a water park, hotel and casino.  Earlier, a Sihanoukville Airport renovation program was announced that will see the airport increase by 80 percent to accommodate larger aircraft and flights from China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Korea and Thailand and stronger domestic links. There is also a new rail link to Phnom Penh and greatly improved road infrastructure linking Sihanoukville with Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang, on the Thai border.

Taing Sochet Krisna, director of the Tourism Department in Preah Sihanouk province, said the province hosted two million tourists last year including 500,000 foreigners with 338,000 visitors using the Sihanoukville International Airport.

According to Mr Krisna 10 new hotels and 1,000 new hotel and guesthouse rooms will be built this year in Sihanoukville across budget, mid-range and luxury hotel sectors adding to the 10,000 hotel and guesthouse rooms currently available in the Province.

It is expected that 5-star hotels including branded offerings from Marriott and InterContinental will be completed over the next three years. An announced Marriott hotel will be 58 stories high and provide 888 rooms. Other luxury properties will have 500 to 600 rooms.  Elsewhere, 941 luxury condominiums will be released this year when two developments are completed.

While the boom is pushing up land values for local property owners and creating the promise of thousands of jobs, not everyone is happy with the changes.

Restaurant and guesthouse operators, traditionally managing on tight margins, are now experiencing 400 – 800 per cent rental increases forcing out many long-time Westerner and Khmer business owners.  Elsewhere, 100s of local businesses from Ochheuteal to Otres have simply been given eviction orders.

There are now concerns that Cambodia’s pristine islands off the coast of Sihanoukville will be the next target for development with local villagers pressing for land rights and protection.

While the future of Sihanoukville is still being shaped one thing is certain: the days of a $3 meal, 50 cent beer, and a $15 dollar per night beachside room are coming to an end.

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