The arrival of international hotel chains could end the coastal city’s chronic shortage of rooms and further its development as Cambodia’s premier beach destination.
International hotel chains have identified a flood tide of tourism that is poised to finally put the coastal city of Sihanoukville on the map and are looking to get in early and fill the city’s chronic shortage of hotel rooms, especially in the four- and five-star category.
Improving infrastructure and more air connectivity, as well as a heavy dose of casino development, is drawing record numbers of tourists to the southern port city that is a gateway to tropical islands and beaches. Now, international hotel chains including Marriott, InterContinental and Accor are readying to open their first properties in Sihanoukville.
Earlier this month, US-based hotel giant Marriott International announced that it signed a deal with Cambodian real estate firm Grand Lion Group to manage a five-star hotel to be built on 1.7 hectares in Lek Bei commune near Hawaii Beach. Construction on the 388-room hotel, to operate under Marriott’s Le Meridien brand, is scheduled to break ground in January 2019, with the hotel slated to open three years later.
The hotel is part of the $200 million Gold Coast hotel and luxury residence tower complex that Grand Lion Group is developing to plug into Sihanoukville’s rising status as a beach destination. The project follows the opening of another Marriott-brand hotel in Siem Reap by the company earlier this year.
“Gold Coast at Sihanoukville will complement the Courtyard by Marriott Siem Reap and the nearby Angkor Archaeological Park by providing an extended stay for guests to explore another dimension of Cambodia,” Lundy Nath, CEO of Grand Lion Group, said in a press release. “This mega-project aims to be among the first to open a new chapter in luxury beach destination experiences in Sihanoukville.”
InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, a UK-based multinational hotel chain with over 5,000 properties worldwide, is close to finishing its $77 million hotel project in Sihanoukville. Thai Boon Roong Company, which owned the InterContinental Hotel in Phnom Penh, is developing the 476-room luxury hotel on 3 hectares in Lek Bei commune.
Tous Saphoeun, the chief architect of Thai Boon Roong Group and one of five architects behind the five-star hotel project, said work on the external structure of the 17-storey building was completed over a year ago and the project has moved into the next phase, which is interior design.
French hotel chain AccorHotels Group, which manages over 4,300 hotels worldwide, has also acquired property in Sihanoukville and will build a four-star Novotel hotel at Independence Beach. The 214-room hotel is expected to open in the third quarter of 2019, and is part of an expansion in Cambodia that includes another Novotel in Phnom Penh and an Ibis hotel in Siem Reap.
Joyce Ong, AccorHotel’s regional director of communications and CSR, said Sihanoukville is in a prime position as a leading beach resort destination and the company is “confident that the hospitality industry will continue to grow in Cambodia with increasing flight traffic and tourists”.
AccorHotels operates 20 different brands of hotels covering a range of budgets from luxury to economy. Ong said the decision to go with its four-star Novotel line reflected Sihanoukville’s market demand and a desire to broaden the company’s Cambodian portfolio.
“With AccorHotels already covering the luxury market with the Raffles and Sofitel brands, which are already present in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, our new hotels seek to fill demand for more affordable accommodation and increase our offerings in Cambodia to cover every segment from economy to luxury,” she said.
Taing Sochetkrisna, director of Preah Sihanouk province’s Tourism Department, said the arrival of major international hotel chains in Sihanoukville reflects the increased confidence of investors in Cambodia’s political and economic stability. He said these hotels will attract more high-end tourists, which is a positive development for the province’s tourism sector development and will create more local jobs, improving livelihoods.
Sochetkrisna said Sihanoukville’s tourism growth has far outstripped the construction of suitable accommodation. The city received over 2 million visitors last year, including 470,000 foreigners – over a quarter of them Chinese. The existing 80 hotels and 300 guesthouses are often booked solid during holidays. Another 10 hotels are under construction and scheduled to open within the coming two years.
The construction of large international hotels will help fill a gap in the coastal city’s total room supply, according to Norn Thim, sales and leasing manager of Sihanoukville Property.
“Demand for hotel rooms exceeds supply in Sihanoukville, especially during special festivities such as Khmer New Year and the Water Festival,” he said. “The Chinese have rented most of the hotels [to house casino staff,] leaving few hotels available for tourists. So the arrival of world-class hotels in Sihanoukville will fill this supply gap.”
He said real estate prices in Sihanoukville have risen sharply due to a large inflow of Chinese investment. The investment in new international hotels should further boost property values and put the beach resort city on a trajectory similar to that taken by Phuket in Thailand.
“Given the current big investment from China in the real estate sector, Sihanoukville is very likely to follow the development path of Phuket, where there are many resorts and five-star hotels,” he said.
But he said unlike Phuket, the surge of Chinese investment and easy-to-obtain casino licences could see the future Sihanoukville more closely resemble a cross between Shanghai and Macau, with towering commercial buildings, big hotels and glitzy casinos.
Additional reporting by Cam McGrath