Mass construction of tourist infrastructure and the Chinese visitor invasion are driving European travellers away from the Cambodian coastal town of Sihanoukville, industry players claim.
Recent years have seen huge amounts of Chinese investment pumped into Sihanoukville, with the town and its coastline dotted with new hotel, casino, condominium and resort developments.
Despite having a population of fewer than 100,000, the town will soon house 30 casinos, up from 15 at the end of 2015 and 10 built in 2016 alone.
An estimated 70 per cent of international flights at Sihanoukville International Airport are also from Chinese cities.
Mick Spencer, owner of Ana Travel in Sihanoukville, said: “Already, we are seeing visitors skip the mainland on the way to the islands and going directly to Kampot or Kep on their return. We can expect there to be no let-up in construction and this will heavily affect tourism, not just international visitors but locals.”
He added the mass investment has also sent rental rates up. “No one is unaffected, while a few are making a lot of money,” he said.
Diethelm Travel Cambodia has also noted “migration” from Sihanoukville – especially this high season, said branch manager Coralie Romano.
Romano added: “In February, Kampot was the place to be. Not only because it has more to offer today than it did a few years ago but because people don’t want to go to Sihanoukville anymore because of the construction and the many Chinese tourists.”
She added agents are now recommending the islands and Kampot or Kep over Sihanoukville.
Khiri Cambodia’s general manager Miles Garrett agreed. “As a company, we can no longer recommend Sihanoukville to our clients. For the last few years we’ve only been using Otres Beach, but unfortunately the development there has made that beach an unpleasant experience,” he said.
In the first nine months of 2017, Chinese arrivals to Sihanoukville jumped by 170 per cent to 87,900.