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Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A Chinese tourist gets a massage at a beach in Sihanoukville last year. Heng Chivoan

Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have speculated that the recent influx of Chinese visitors may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city of Sihanoukville continues to rise.

Preah Sihanouk province, which has become a hotbed for Chinese investment in the country, has seen huge leaps of growth in the manufacturing, tourism and gambling industries.

Its geography proves strategic as well for Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure push in Asia.

However, prices at hotels and restaurants seem to be rising, with some saying that Cambodians will soon not be able to afford it.

A hotel receptionist at Sihanoukville’s Golden Sand Hotel said room prices have risen slightly in the last year while the number of local visitors has fallen by more than 50 per cent. But he couldn’t say if the trend was due to price or other factors.

“I think the number of local tourists visiting Sihanoukville has fallen because they do not like the disorder caused by the Chinese. They don’t mind the price, but they walk out and say that the rooms are full of smoked cigarettes,” he said.

A report from the province’s tourism department obtained by The Post on Monday showed that in the first half of this year more than 1.3 million tourists stopped there. That number is up by more than 10 per cent from last year.

The report showed that more than one million of those visitors were domestic tourists, up 8.10 per cent year-on-year. Foreign tourists totalled almost 300,000, which was an increase of nearly 18 per cent from a year ago.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Chinese tourists led the group, making up 84,664 international tourists. Their numbers grew by 43.6 per cent over last year. Visitors from Vietnam, however, totalled just 20,000 and increased by only 3.3 per cent during the same period.

Driven to the outskirts

Additionally, the report showed that visitor numbers from Europe and America have fallen sharply.

Hang Reth, the manager of the Moonflower Bungalows, which is located on Sihanoukville’s Otres beach, claimed that few Chinese tourists came to his guesthouse. He said Westerners were still paying visits in order to get away from the crowds at the city’s centre.

He noted that there seemed to be more local visitors, however.

“I have received more local visitors unlike in the past. Domestic visitors come because they have difficulties finding a place to stay in the city centre."

“Because of the high cost of accommodations in the centre, local guests come to stay in guesthouses or hotels on the outskirts,” he said.

He blamed the city’s problems with waste collection, disorder and poor roads for the drop in Western and domestic visitors.

“I think the number of domestic tourists will continue to fall further in Sihanoukville,” he said.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin said rising prices, higher room rates, and having to pay more for purchases and food were affecting local tourists.

She said some of them are turning to other destination in neighbouring provinces to take weekend or holiday trips.

“The decline in the number of local and Western tourists in Sihanoukville will continue if there is no intervention from relevant institutions,” she said, adding that she believes all relevant institutions will act so that Sihanoukville can continue to attract visitors.

Ministry of Tourism spokesman Tith Chantha could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Sihanoukville governor Yun Min told The Post earlier this month that the number of local and Western tourists will continue to fall because of a shortage in accommodation.

“This, and the rising room rates are the main reasons local and Western tourist numbers dropped slightly in Sihanoukville centre,” he said.

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