Sokha Hotels and Resorts will open the first dedicated convention centre in Siem Reap next month, giving the country’s leading tourist destination another major draw to attract foreign visitors.
The Cambodian hotel chain will open a 9,000 square metre convention centre adjacent to its soon-to-open 770-room resort complex near the visitor entrance of Angkor Wat, the Kingdom’s biggest tourist attraction.
Construction on the facility began in May 2014 and its launch is scheduled for September to coincide with the opening of the five-star resort.
Leena Rajagopal, the convention centre’s director of sales, said existing major hotels in Siem Reap province have limited capacity for meetings and events, with most topping out at around 300 square metres.
“Previously, major conferences have predominately been held in Phnom Penh,” she said. “Today’s announcement lets the industry know that Siem Reap is now a perfect option to hold an international event combining business with a cultural experience.”
Chheuy Chhorn, deputy director of Siem Reap’s tourism department, said the new convention centre will create a suitable venue for large conferences and business events, some drawing more than a thousand attendees.
“It was hard to find a place for major international conventions in Siem Reap, so when the city held any major conferences, we had to rent a large hall from Phnom Penh,” he said.
“Once Siem Reap has a convention centre I believe more major international conferences will start to be held here as it is a chance to show the attendees our ancient temples as well.”
Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Cambodian chapter of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), said that Sokha’s new conference centre would play an important role in promoting tourism to Siem Reap, with benefits to the broader economy.
He said meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) tourism brings thousands of visitors, who contribute to the local economy through expenses on accommodation, food, transport and activities.
“MICE tourism, or conference tourism, is an important contributor to economic growth, but we have faced challenges meeting the demand for international conference standards due to limited space,” he said.
He said Siem Reap’s largest existing conference facility could only handle about 800 people, which was insufficient for a major international conference or exhibition.
“Even in Phnom Penh, there is still a space shortage and it is also a challenge for us when we need to arrange any tourist conference, as there are no competitors to the Diamond Island convention centre, so the cost [of the event] is entirely up to them.”
Additional reporting by Cheng Sokhorng