After two years of COVID lockdowns and constant roadwork is Siem Reap finally trending up? Optimistic voices have spoken about the imminent return of the city’s hospitality industry, but from our recent visit the answer remains unclear.
The return of the hospitality industry
One of the biggest and boldest signs of the problems Siem Reap has faced has been its legendary Pub Street. A mecca for visiting tourists and a barometer on how businesses are faring in the city.
After almost a year closed the area is now fixed and the bars are not open. What is lacking though are the crowds of old, with Tom Kay of Picasso Bar on Pub Street telling us “There are more people in Siem Reap now but tourist levels still remain very low. More bars have reopened, but that translates into the customers that are here being spread more thinly”
And this was evident even late on a Saturday with all the big bars and clubs being at best 10-20 percent full, with this being in theory at least “prime-time” for the businesses. Hoteliers have not reported much improvement either, although there is at least some improvement.
Siem Reap sees a slight upturn in occupancies
One positive sign at least is that hotels are slowly opening rather than closing, although empty former hotels do still dominate the landscape. And it is at the higher-end of things where most moment seems to be taking place.
The Shinta Mani Angkor is seeing promising bookings despite being at the higher end of the price scale. Chandra Oum, the Executive Assistant Manager of the resort, told Cambodia Investment Review, “We only recently reopened and while we have not heavily marketed yet, we are getting bookings from both local and foreign tourists”.
Currently, it is only the private pool villas that have been opened, which range from $400-990, with the cheaper parts of the hotel not yet being renovated with Chandra Oum adding “We will watch airport arrivals and tourist numbers before expanding and investing further”. When the resort eventually does these rooms will be available for as little as $120 a night, but as of yet, the market is not yet ready for a full opening.
And this is another area where the city has ups and downs, during holidays such as New Year, or Chinese New Year hotels could get up to almost 100 percent occupancy, but this did not translate to regular bookings, with occupancies still hovering around the 20 percent mark according to numerous hoteliers.
According to Tim Scott who owns a hotel near to Bar Street “We are getting more inquiries and bookings, but it is not yet at any sort of level resembling normal times”.
The slow recovery of the real estate sector in Siem Reap
Real-estate was another that has seen some growth in the last few months. although with far different trends to before.
Speaking to Cambodia Investment Review Daniella Wilson CEO of South East Asia Property Services (SEAPS) stated “Things have undoubtedly gotten better over the last 3 months, but it has tended to be in the rental and hospitality markets. Most of our clients are looking at bars and restaurants which can be set up on cheap rents with the hope of tourism returning in full”.
So, while things are definitely getting better in Siem Reap, it is still a landscape dominated by empty buildings, barely full bars and hotels operating at minimal capacity.