Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The rise of Sihanoukville



The rise of Sihanoukville

The rise of Sihanoukville

130321 08
Tourists enjoy themselves on Sihanoukville Beach. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Sihanoukville, with its sleepy population of little over 250,000 people, is Cambodia’s fourth-largest city and the gateway to the beaches and islands. Coastal tourism has increasingly been focused on Sihanoukville in recent years with Kep (a favourite in times gone by) and Koh Kong offering little for the appetites of foreign and international tourists other than the local seafood.  

With foreign and domestic tourists focusing coastal visits upon Sihanoukville, one could be forgiven for thinking the town would be full of resorts, with a wide variety of entertainment and dining options as well as a raft of four- and five-star hotels.  

The truth is quite different. On public holidays, demand for accommodation far outstrips supply, prices double and the range of accommodation is sadly limited to simple guesthouses and two- and three-star hotels, with only a small number of exceptions.  The beautiful boutique hotels seen in the likes of Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Battambang are non-existent in Sihanoukville, partially owing to the relative youth of the city (the history of Sihanoukville only dates back to 1955) and hence a lack of built heritage and architecture.  Yet year upon year, increasing numbers of tourists flock to Sihanoukville, but the city has changed only a little.

There are several reasons that have kept change muted in Sihanoukville.

The area is very seasonal, with monsoon rains limiting the peak season; a large percentage of international visitors stay in Cambodia for a very short time, flying into Siem Reap to see the temples and then flying out again; many of the foreign visitors who travel to Sihanoukville are on low budgets with very little spending power. 

Therefore the coast has not flourished.  
But are things about to change.

There are positive signs, which are slowly producing an increasingly positive outlook for Cambodia’s coastal capital.  In 2011 Cambodia’s coastline was inducted into the “World’s Most Beautiful Bays Club”, a coveted title which provides great marketing potential; in 2012, Sihanoukville Airport opened its doors offering flights between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville; in 2012, a Thai-Cambodian company completed a stylish new boutique hotel and new hotel developments have broken ground with designs to offer four-star accommodation, and the government has strongly advocated its desire  for Sihanoukville to become a boutique location, aiming for middle- to high-end tourism.

CBRE Cambodia is beginning to see the effects of such positives moves, and a sense of optimism is becoming palpable.  Yet caution is warranted and a decisive factor will remain that of access.  Without international flights into the province, coupled with a poor safety record along National Road No 4, well-heeled travelers will continue to bypass Cambodia’s coast.  The airport remains the key to unlock the vast potential of the coastal areas around Sihanoukville.

Sihanoukville will change and develop, and CBRE Cambodia believes the future is bright for Sihanoukville.  The town, and the islands, have the chance to develop in an eco-centric, sustainable and unique fashion, a goal which many are committed to, and desire to see achieved.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ice cream, noodles flagged over carcinogen

    The General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE) has identified three types of instant noodles and ice cream trademarks originating from Thailand, Vietnam and France that are suspected to contain ethylene oxide, which poses a cancer risk to consumers. The general department has

  • Exclusive interview with Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU

    CAMBODIA is hosting the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings this week with top officials from the US, China, and Russia and other countries in the region slated to attend and to meet with face-to-face with their counterparts on the sidelines. In

  • Rise in Thai air routes to Siem Reap fuels travel hopes

    Local tourism industry players are eager for regional airline Bangkok Airways Pcl’s resumption of direct flight services between the Thai capital and Siem Reap town on August 1 – home of Cambodia’s awe-inspiring Angkor Archaeological Park – which is expected to boost the growth rate of

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • NBC eyes KHQR payments in Laos, Vietnam

    The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) is working with Lao and Vietnamese authorities to expand the use of KHQR code cross-border payment systems to promote trade and investment as well as increase the scope of regional economic linkages, and in particular, facilitate remittances from overseas

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’