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No room at the inn

No room at the inn

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The number of high-end hotel rooms serving luxury and business travellers is failing to keep up with strong annual tourism growth, officials say

TRACEY SHELTON

The lobby of The Quay hotel on the Phnom Penh riverside, one of the capital city’s new small boutique hotels catering to a more upscale clientele.

LOW-RENT LODGING

Cambodia has about 350 hotels with roughly 20,000 rooms, including 140 in Phnom Penh, 100 in Siem Reap and about 50 in Sihanoukville, with the rest in other provinces. Most of Cambodia’s accomodation is targeted at the low-end segment.

CAMBODIA is facing a shortfall of 3,000 hotel rooms in the face of

tourist arrivals growing at an annual rate of up to 20 percent, said a

tourism official in Phnom Penh.

"There is a shortage of about

1,500 hotel rooms in Phnom Penh and of about 1,500 rooms in

Sihanoukville due to tourist growth and the business boom," said

Kousoum Saroeuth, director general for the Ministry of Tourism.

"But the shortage is mainly for high-end hotels."

He

added, "We have enough hotels and guesthouses for common tourists, but

we need more high-end hotels for luxury tourists and business people."

He

said that Cambodia had about 350 hotels with roughly 20,000 rooms,

including 140 in Phnom Penh, 100 in Siem Reap, about 50 in

Sihanoukville, with the rest in other provinces.

The hotel

industry was a major revenue-earner but no figures were available on

how much hotels earn every year, Kousoum Saroeuth said.

He

noted that two million tourists were visiting Cambodia every year,

generating revenues of about US$1.4 billion last year. He added  that

tourism was responsible for generating about 300,000 jobs.

So Mara, undersecretary of state at the Tourism Ministry, said that

even with the shortfall, the industry had grown quickly to meet demand.

"The

good side is that this industry is mostly owned by local investors, so

revenues are not flowing out of the country," he said. "Tourism has

grown about 19 percent year-on-year, so demand for accommodation will

grow, too."  

But Cambodian Hotel Association President Luu Meng said there was still too little investment in top-end accommodation.

"In this industry, what we need is high-class hotels for high-class

guests. Currently, we have a lot of hotels, but only a few are top

class," Luu Meng said.

He noted that the hotel industry was responsible for creating about

22,000 jobs in the Kingdom but that the industry carried risks for

investors as it was vulnerable to economic downturns and political

instability.

Regional hotels have also been affected by high fuel prices and

increased airfares, as well as a slowing global economy, he added.

"Security and safety are the major priority for this sector, and road infrastructure comes next," Luu Meng said.

Kousoum Saroeuth said that, in a bid to strengthen the hotel

industry, the Tourism Ministry would require hotels to obtain proper

classifications or risk having their licences pulled.

The classification ranges from one to five stars, he said.

"Since the subdecree on hotel classification took effect in 2003 ...

only 15 out of 350 hotels in Cambodia have been classified: 12 in Siem

Reap, two in Phnom Penh and one in Sihanoukville."

He said that, since 2003, the Ministry of Tourism has warned hotel

owners to apply with the ministry for classifications, but most had

ignored the notice.

"As soon as the new government is formed, if hotel owners still

ignore having their hotels classified, they will be denied extensions

to their operating licences, which they need to apply for every year,"

he said.

The hotel standards conformed with ASEAN rules, he said, and "will

build credibility among foreigners as well as trust that the hotels

they are staying in are as good as others in ASEAN. It will also allow

hotels to promote themselves and strengthen their service."

He said that the classification procedures were not complicated and would take only three days to complete.

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