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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Chinatown location still unknown

A labourer walks past the entrance of  Phnom Penh’s historic O’Russey Market.
A labourer walks past the entrance of Phnom Penh’s historic O’Russey Market. CHARLOTTE PERT

Chinatown location still unknown

Historic O’Russey Market will not be the location of a planned Chinatown development, according to Cambodia’s Tourism Minister.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the government was looking for another site for the tourism-focused development and that O’Russey Market was not under consideration, as had recently been reported by Japanese media.

“First we need to study a new location and discuss with the people, then we must submit our proposal to the royal government,” Thong said in a phone interview on Monday.

A report on November 13 by Japanese financial news service Nikkei singled out O’Russey Market as the location the government was considering for the new Chinatown. The development is intended to create a Chinese atmosphere in central Phnom Penh to attract greater numbers of heavy-spending Chinese tourists. Last year nearly one in 10 visitors to Cambodia was Chinese.

More than 330,000 Chinese travellers visited Cambodia in 2012, a 35 percent jump from the previous year. Visits by Chinese this year are set to surpass last year’s high mark – the kingdom recorded more than 200,000 entries by Chinese in only the first five months of this year.

China is currently the world’s largest source of outbound travelers, who spend an estimated $100 billion annually. With this massive supply of shopping-focused tourists, combined with the relatively short journey from China and the fact that 16 per cent of Cambodia’s GDP comes from tourism, it’s easy to see why attracting Chinese tourists has become a priority for the government.

The Cambodian Tourism Ministry has set a target of attracting 1.8 million Chinese tourists annually by 2018, according to statements made at a seminar by Bou Chanserey, deputy director of the department of planning and development at the Ministry of Tourism.

That may be an achievable goal, but to keep pace, Cambodia’s Chinese-language infrastructure will need to improve quickly. The restaurants, hotels and travel agencies that are early adapters of Chinese-language services will position themselves to reap the early benefits of the rapid growth in tourism from China.

It’s too soon to say what the ramifications of a Chinatown on Phnom Penh’s property market will be. What is safe to say is that when the location of the development is announced, the value of adjacent street-level commercial space will no longer be the same.

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