Huan Hai Bo Lai International Investment Co Ltd is making a $168 million investment to build a five-star hotel in Sihanoukville to tap into the promising potential of the local tourism industry.

On November 25, the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), the Kingdom’s highest decision-making body for large-scale investments, said in a notice that it had approved the company’s requests to build and operate the proposed establishment, which is planned for Village 4, Commune IV and expected to create 955 jobs.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents adviser Ho Vandy sees the new hotel as “another step forward” for the tourism industry of Preah Sihanouk province, which has seen an exceptional pick-up in domestic and foreign visitors after the government essentially ditched all Covid-19 restrictions.

“Supported by this large hotel investment project, I expect Preah Sihanouk to be able to attract more foreign tourists back here, in numbers we’d seen prior to the health crisis when we were getting loads of holidaymakers every year, especially Chinese,” he told The Post on November 27.

Vandy is optimistic that the political crises confronting the world’s major powers will simmer down to more tolerable levels, providing another driving force for the Kingdom’s international tourism inflows.

Preah Sihanouk provincial Department of Tourism director Taing Sochet Krisna, recently told The Post that holidaymakers were making more trips to the coastal province, after a two-year Covid lull, especially the Chinese with Beijing dialling back its travel restrictions.

He also commented that the new Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway and revamped infrastructure in Preah Sihanouk would make travel to the province far easier than before.

“Given what the government and the authorities have been doing, and are continuing to do, we expect to see more and more tourists and investors in the province soon,” he said, adding that many events are set to be held in Preah Sihanouk, which aim to draw in more travellers and businesspeople.

For reference, the Ministry of Commerce’s business registry lists only one officer for Huan Hai Bo Lai International Investment, “Luo Hong”, who shares the same name as officers listed for similar firms Yong Wang (Cambodia) Co Ltd and Bi Yuan Real Estate International Co Ltd, both of which have directors with addresses in China. However, it was not immediately clear if any combination of the three are the same person.

Yong Wang Cambodia earlier a submitted a proposal to build a 700-room five-star hotel, with investment commitment of $108 million, for which the CDC in May 2020 announced that it had approved a final registration certificate.

The Kingdom welcomed nearly 1.266 million international visitors in the first nine months of this year – up 861.29 per cent year-on-year but down 73.71 per cent over the same period in 2019 – of which 946,125, or 74.75 per cent, declared “holiday” as their purpose of visit, 270,910 (21.40 per cent) marked “business”, while 48,737 (3.85 per cent) indicated other motives.

Of the January-September total, 468,889 arrived by air, and 796,883 entered overland or by waterways, down by 86.18 per cent and 43.90 per cent, respectively, from the corresponding period in 2019.

Of note, if the number of international visitors for each remaining month this year is equal to or greater than the September figure of 267,500, the full-year total would top 2.068 million, or 3.41 per cent more than the two-million upper bound of the estimated range offered by the tourism ministry as recently as November 2.