Cambodia today like Thailand in the 1980s
The regional manager of the world’s largest property group says the islands off the cost of Sihanoukville in the Koh Rong Archipelago could become for Cambodia what Phuket is for Thailand.
David Simister, Chairman of CBRE Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, said the Cambodian government should promote visitors from Angkor Wat extending their time in Cambodia to enjoy the beaches and islands along the southern coast.
“I do think one area the government should stimulate is the linkage between Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh and the coast,” said Simister, who was in Cambodia on November 25 for a valuation conference and to join a party in celebration of the opening of Mekong Gardens serviced apartments.
“We’ve advised several people on projects down there, including Song Saa Island,” Simister said. “We believe in its connectivity, transportation and the right level of hotel rooms.”
Simister said if only 10 per cent of Angkor Wat visitors chose to visit Sihanoukville “you could triple spending in the country. Most Angkor Wat visitors will spend more time in a neighbouring country than Cambodia, principally to sit on the beach.”
Simister says Cambodia is like Thailand was in the late 1980s.
“I think Cambodia is one of the fastest growing economies and there are a lot of parallels to when I started in Bangkok in 1988. At that point on the skyline the tallest building was Bangkok Bank, and we were in a building where you had to queue 30 minutes to get into the lifts, first generation high rise office building.”
“Since then there are hundreds of high rise buildings, and we’ve been involved with most of the leading ones.
In Cambodia, CBRE is the sole leasing agent for Vattanac “which is a solid and visible sign of real progress, and a new level of grade-A accommodations”, he said.
Simister said he was pleased CBRE had been appointed as property manager to Phnom Penh Tower, the newest skyscraper to be available for office leasing on the Phnom Penh landscape.
Another of CBRE’s clients is Mekong Gardens, which Simister describes as a “soft space with very beautiful natural settings on the Mekong and facilities that rival many hotels in terms of pool and deck area”.
Simister first came to Cambodia in 1993.
“We like to go into emerging economies early. While we may do jobs for foreign investors, we believe our true client base is working with local developers and using our international connections. Our strength is the right people in the business and having our place in the local market. We’re here to seize the opportunity, not waiting for an appointment and then start thinking how to resource it.”
Simister said he remembers the UNTAC elections and the “tremendous buzz” about Cambodia in 1993, even though the very few restaurants at the time didn’t have matching silverware.
“We treat this emerging market seriously.”