Sihanoukville’s transformation into Cambodia’s tourism and gambling hub is both a blessing and a curse.
Cambodia’s coastal province has seen such a dramatic rise in the number of local and foreign tourists that new rooms are needed to accommodate the influx.
Khmer Times reported that Sihanoukville’s hotel sector will be opening 1,000 new rooms and 10 new hotels this year because the current 10,000 hotel and guesthouse rooms can no longer accommodate the tide of tourists.
Data showed that Sihanoukville welcomed 1 million local tourists and 470,000 foreign visitors in 2017. An estimated 120,000 Chinese visited Sihanoukville last year, twice the number recorded in 2016, in part to gamble in the coastal province’s casinos.
Local officials expect that the number of tourists in Sihanoukville will dramatically rise in the coming years as they anticipate the opening of more casinos. Currently, the area hosts 10 casinos, including the Oriental Pearl and the New Macau.
“To meet demand, investors have been investing in budget, mid-range and luxury hotels in 20 different locations,” Sihanoukville’s Tourism Department Director Taing Sochetkrisna said, according to the news outlet.
While the local government celebrated the vibrant tourism numbers, Sihanoukville residents are dismayed with the flood of Chinese tourists in the area.
The Financial Times reported that Cambodians are upset that many Chinese are taking over their jobs at a time when employment is scarce. Locals also have to deal with rising property prices and rowdy Chinese visitors, according to the report.
While they welcome any investment beyond casinos and hotels in Sihanoukville, Sochetkrisna pointed out that they “need more local people to have a chance to work, to get more money from this growth.”
The Cambodian ministry has already sent a task force in Sihanoukville to observe the Chinese law breakers.
Recently, Chinese envoy Xiong Bo held a rare press conference after a confidential document, which listed the positive and negative impacts of Chinese money and people, leaked out of the Sihanoukville governor’s office. Bo recognized that there are “low-educated people” from his country who are breaking local laws.