New residential and office spaces will change the Phnom Penh skyline for many years to come, but new hotels catering to business and high-end travellers will also play a big part of changes in the city.
This was illustrated earlier this month when it was announced that the capital’s first Grade A office building, Vattanac Capital Tower One, reached an agreement with Rosewood Hotels & Resorts to manage an ultra-luxury hotel on the building’s top 14 storeys.
Cambodia relies on tourism more than any of its Southeast Asian neighbours, with the sector accounting for a substantial 16 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). But at the moment, Phnom Penh, with its cultural, architectural and historic attractions and buzzing nightlife, still lags behind Siam Reap in terms of its hospitality sector. Unfairly, but perhaps not surprisingly, many cash-rich leisure travellers still simply fly in and out of Siam Reap without visiting the capital.
Asking a developing country’s capital to compete with Angkor Wat and Siam Reap’s world-class dining may be a bit much, but Phnom Penh does possess one distinct advantage over its northwestern rival. As Cambodia’s economy continues its solid growth and more foreign enterprises set up shop, international business travellers will come to Cambodia, with Phnom Penh as their primary gateway.
Global hotel brands understand this and are already making moves. Markland Blaiklock, senior vice president of Sofitel Asia Pacific, told the Post earlier this year that the hotel’s France-based parent company, Accor, was planning to diversify its target markets in Phnom Penh. Blaiklock said Accor’s economy brand Ibis and mid-range brand Novotel were planned for the vacant sites near the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra.
According to a report released by the Asian Development Bank this month, tourism is playing a key role in pushing up the value of Cambodia’s service sector, which only accounts for 40 per cent of GDP at present. Tourist arrivals during the first half of this year were up 19 per cent year-on-year to 2.1 million.
Established high-end hotels such as Sofitel, Raffles Hotel Le Royal and Intercontinental Phnom Penh are no doubt expecting increased competition in the coming years. And for the moment it appears that, barring any major economic or political disturbances, Phnom Penh’s tourism arrivals will continue to grow through the short- to mid-term, with more and more visitors coming to do business. And maybe visit Siam Reap if they have time.