Cambodia’s seaside city of Sihanoukville is returning as an international travel and investment destination again after hosting the ASEAN Tourism Forum last week and travelers returning with COVID 19 constraints easing.
The city previously had many large development projects underway until the start of the pandemic with the skyline being dominated by casinos, high-rise hotels, condominiums, and unfinished developments now ready to begin.
The area will be vital to drive Cambodia’s economic growth hosting the country’s only deep sea-port, several special economic zones and will soon be connected to Phnom Penh with the country’s first super highway.
Prince Times Hotel and the rejuvenation of Sihanoukville
One of the companies assisting with this rejuvenation is the Prince Times Hotel. The hotel is the main 5-star hotel under Prince Group, with renovations in October 2021 to produce one of the first high-end family and business-friendly hotels in the city.
The hotel is managed by Simon Chong a Malaysian national with over 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry, which has included many well-known brands, as well as a long stint working on cruise ships.
Since taking over the hotel he has been looking to make the venue not only more international but also much family and business-friendly.
He told Cambodia Investment Review: “We are trying to build the hotel to be much more enticing to international rather than just Chinese guests. I am actively recruiting staff that speaks multiple languages and we offer facilities to suit all tastes”.
Facilities wise the hotel certainly lives up to its international credentials, with 193 luxury ocean view rooms, a state-of-the-art gym, and without doubt one of the best and well-kept swimming pools in the city.
And of course, there is food and drink too, with a Southeast Asian restaurant, a genuinely authentic Chinese restaurant, and one of the best views of the Sihanoukville city and beach landscape.
While all of the restaurants offer great food, the Chinese restaurant at Prince Times Hotel is, without doubt, the jewel in the crown, with a top-notch chef imported from Guangdong, a Hongkongese restaurant manager and a degree of fine-dining that has started to draw local fans, with Chong adding;
“We offer one of the best southern Chinese dining experiences in the city, with not only an ale-carte menu, but also a 7 course set meal among others. Over the last few months we have increasingly seen bookings from Khmer families, as well as locals using our facilities for weddings”.
This is undoubtedly helped by the decor, which includes seven themed private rooms based on different countries from the ASEAN region, another element of internationalism that the hotel is trying to portray.
Yet it is what the hotel does not have, rather than what it does have that is what sets it apart as both a business and family-friendly venue, and that is the lack of a casino.
This makes the Prince Times Hotel not only unique in Sihanoukville but also perhaps indicative of at least a small change in direction for the city.
Chong said: “Many other high-end hotels, not only have casinos, but feature them right next to the lobby. We are trying to provide a much more relaxed environment based around excellent customer service in order to cater to a different clientele”.
And so far at least it seems to be working with the hotel reporting an average 70 percent occupancy, which rose to 100 percent during the recent ATF 2022 event.
Sihanoukville proving attractive to international investors again
After the online casinos were officially banned, the city has recently hosted several high-profile events, such as the SEA Sailing Championship and most recently the ASEAN Travel Forum.
This alongside the return of cruise ship passengers points to a clear program of the government trying to move away from an over-reliance on Chinese guests and the casino industry.
Since its relative reopening, the city has also seen not only a resurgence in real-estate sales, but realtors have also reported a much more international look to their clientele.
Daniella Wilson CEO of South East Asia Property Services told Cambodia Investment Review: “Previously Sihanoukville was seen as simply a Chinese city. Over the last few months we have not only seen a more international look to clients interested in investing in Sihanoukville but families too. Previously these clients would be more inclined to look in places such as Kep, or Siem Reap”.
This was a sentiment echoed by Crispin Kirby of Lux Realty, who recently began franchising in the coastal city, who added “Since the online casino ban we have noticed more families ready to move to Sihanoukville. We believe firmly that more family accommodation in the city could indeed be the next gold rush”.
Therefore with the government slowly but surely cleaning up the city, new family developments being built and businesses such as the Prince Times Hotel offering more than just casinos, the touristic and business landscape of Sihanoukville is slowly, but surely becoming much more international and family-friendly in nature.