The Phnom Penh Post suggests Sihanoukville is ripe for resort development. This small town of about 250,000 people is Cambodia’s fourth-largest city and the gateway to the beaches and islands of Cambodia.
You should also read why we think Cambodia has an advantage in coastal tourism development: Comparing Demand and Supply of Asia’s Tourism Coastlines
No upmarket hotels & resorts
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.
Demand exceeds supply during peak season
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.
Why no new development?
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.
Change is coming
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,
The government has strongly advocated its desire for Sihanoukville to become a boutique location, aiming for middle- to high-end tourism.
Cons: No international air access yet
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.