Opening up Cambodia’s south coast could result in a major boost for both tourism and property, but first the country needs to put on direct flights to the area and build the necessary infrastructure.
If these things were done, the results would be more demand for hotel rooms in both Phnom Penh and the south coast and the islands. There would also be a more diverse number of tourists.
Beach holidays bring families, so there would be a need for more hotels and holiday villas and a wider range of entertainment. Eventually, there would need to be marinas for boats and excursions for fishing and scuba enthusiasts.
Now about 100,000 tourists visit the south coast each year, but if only 50 percent of those who visited Siem Reap in the past seven months visited the south coast, then the numbers would rise to 368,000 over seven months and possibly 500,000 annually. That is five times more tourists, creating a big demand for staff.
There would also be a much needed boost for service industries, tour companies, catering companies, local farmers, markets selling souvenirs etc.
Cambodia is competing with the rest of the world as a tourism destination, and it has the opportunity to boost its GDP, increase employment opportunities, conditions and wages through tourism. But for tourism on the south coast to blossom, a key issue is direct flights to the area.
In 2009, the number of tourists from abroad and key markets such as South Korea, Japan and China decreased, and also the length of stay and average spend per tourist decreased.
In 2010 there was some improvement in the tourism sector. In the first seven months of 2010 the number of tourist arrivals was 1,423,505, an increase of 13.85 percent on the same period last year, with arrivals by air increasing 14.13 percent.
Of those who travelled to Cambodia this year, 736,371 went directly to Siem Reap, 687,134 went to Phnom Penh and 29,190 went to ecotourism tourism locations in the north-east.
Only 103,754 went to the south coast.
As a percentage of total tourists, only 7.2 percent reached the south coast. This is a lost opportunity as those who know the south coast, which is one of Cambodia’s best kept secrets.
From Kep, Kampot, Sihanoukville, Botum Sakor to Koh Rong and the numerous islands off the coast such as Songsaa, Cambodia is blessed with a unique coastline.
Cambodia has an opportunity to create a tourism triangle between Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and the south coast which will keep tourists here for longer and multiply the contribution the sector makes to GDP.
We know that patterns of tourists to Cambodia tend to be an extension of a Southeast Asian stay where tourists visit Angkor and Phnom Penh and go to Phuket, Penang or Bali for their beach holidays. Cambodia can cater for these tourists and benefit from tourist dollars, euros and yuan.
The single most important factor is flights to the south coast. The airport already exists, there is a national carrier, but there are no flights.