A senior official of Preah Sihanouk province and a tourism sector representative regard the nearly $600 million investment by Ban Dao Investment Co Ltd for constructing a five-star hotel and commercial complex in Sihanoukville as a sign of confidence in the Cambodian economy and a response to the rebounding tourism sector.

The Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) recently granted a final certificate of registration for the company’s $574 million project which includes a hotel on Poy Tamong Beach Street in the provincial town’s Commune IV.

Deputy provincial governor Long Dimanche told The Post on March 6 that he became aware of the investment after a recent CDC meeting.

He believes that the venture demonstrates the coastal province’s potential and its appeal for foreign investment.

“This large investment project … will establish a five-star hotel with 2,870 rooms and a substantial commercial hub … indicating foreign investors’ trust in the region,” he said.

“The project represents a major development for the province, enhancing its attractiveness, especially as we witness the gradual return of foreign tourists. The presence of the hotel and commercial hub will be crucial in providing services to visitors in Preah Sihanouk, contributing to tourism and our national economy,” he added.

Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter, noted that despite the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and economic downturn, the province remains a dynamic tourist and investment destination.

“Despite the impact of Covid-19, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and global economic challenges, Preah Sihanouk, like Siem Reap, has suffered from a decrease in foreign tourists. However, the province continues to attract tourists and investors with its beautiful islands and beaches. Additionally, previously stalled investment projects are gradually resuming,” he said.

Government intervention

In January, Prime Minister Hun Manet announced the launch of the Special Programme to Promote Investment in Preah Sihanouk Province for 2024, aiming to stimulate business activities and investments, transforming Preah Sihanouk into a province with substantial economic potential across various fields.

The initiative is structured around four main conceptual pillars: Repositioning the province’s image to highlight its role as an economic hub focused on industry, tourism and investment; addressing real challenges effectively and swiftly; introducing practical measures in alignment with the government’s policies and strategies; and accelerating digital and industrial development in the province to enhance value and competitive advantage.

The programme focuses on three key areas: initiating projects related to unfinished buildings, starting new ventures unrelated to unfinished construction and expanding existing investments, all set to commence within the year.

Dimanche observed a notable increase in investor interest following the premier’s announcement of the special package. He noted that four or five companies have already applied for investment, with many others in the process of research and preparing their applications for special investment rights.

“So far, our team has processed a handful of applications from private sector companies. Two of these cases have undergone thorough review, discussion and evaluation by our team. We have offered incentive packages addressing fiscal and non-fiscal matters, in line with the private sector’s requests to commence investment activities [within the province],” he stated.

He added that the early 2024 construction and real estate situation has shown improvement compared to early 2023, though it has not reached the peak levels of pre-2019.

“The construction and renovation activities, along with the arrangement of some buildings and sites for business and other investments in Preah Sihanouk, are showing positive trends, albeit gradual. The progress, while not rapid, is definitely beginning to gain momentum,” he explained.

Dimanche highlighted the presence of many large buildings in the province, noting that over 360 are unfinished and approximately 160-170 are completed but not yet operational. He expressed confidence that investment and construction there will accelerate in 2024 compared to 2023.

“We have high hopes that this special programme will significantly boost the confidence of both local and foreign investors to consider investing in Preah Sihanouk in 2024, with special exemptions. These provisions, both tax and non-tax, are greatly beneficial,” he stated.