Tourists and Chinese investors are gradually making their way back to Preah Sihanouk province, as the Covid-19 situation in the Kingdom eases and socio-economic activities pick up pace following early November’s full reopening announcement, according to a spokesman for the coastal province.
Preah Sihanouk is one of Cambodia’s top coastal tourism hotspots, and was chosen by the government among a short list of destinations for the first phase of the international tourism relaunch scheme that kicked off on November 30, which conditionally allows fully-vaccinated international arrivals to visit select locations.
Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesman Kheang Phearum told The Post on December 20 that a sizeable portion of Chinese nationals, including investors, that currently reside in the province had only returned since last month, but noted that the number of new arrivals has fallen short of expectations.
“[Still,] the return of Chinese investors is a positive sign for Preah Sihanouk’s economic recovery after the Covid-19 crisis, which has been plaguing the economy,” he said.
Preah Sihanouk provincial Chamber of Commerce president Vann Sokheng said Covid was keeping more investors away than many would have hoped, despite the resumption of flights.
He recommended local investors reconsider their reliance on external investment, cautioning that past experience has shown that major unforeseen disasters can lead to the withdrawal of foreign capital, causing local businesses to take a sharp hit.
“The return of Chinese and other investors depends on the economic situation of their countries and the global situation as well. Although we have decided to reopen, it is not certain that they can come in large numbers as before.
“The Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Preah Sihanouk provincial Chamber of Commerce, have been working hard to strengthen production and the local market, as we have no choice but to work on our own. Even if the situation improves or returns to normal, do not give up your existing businesses and rely on others.
“Our country needs to enhance SMEs [small- and medium-sized enterprises]. No matter the crisis, we can survive. And if there is an opportunity from external investors, we can seize that opportunity, but please do not give up what you have in hand,” Sokheng said.
On October 18, the government selected China’s Urban Planning Design Institute of Shenzhen (UPDIS) to develop a master plan for the development and transformation of Preah Sihanouk into a “Model Multi-Purpose Special Economic Zone”, a regional innovative logistic centre and resort.
The master plan, development of which is expected to take about 18 months, has been described as an important roadmap for the development of the provincial capital Sihanoukville into what has been called “Shenzhen II”, in line with the implementation of Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025.
According to the provincial administration, Preah Sihanouk has attracted nearly $4 billion in investments since 1994. As of May 2020, some 20 companies have developed projects on a cumulative 11,647ha on the province’s beaches and islands, with a total capital investment of $3.9 billion.
As of June 2020, industrial, commercial and service establishments in the province numbered 922, of which 98 were hotels, 262 guesthouses, 340 restaurants, 26 bungalows, 39 KTVs, nine discotheques and 62 massage parlours.
Between 2007 and July 2020, 819 projects were approved in Preah Sihanouk, of which 218 were between five and 42 storeys tall. The province welcomed some two million tourists in 2018, before the pandemic.