A swathe of new hospitality projects and improving infrastructure in Cambodia are firmly planting the country on the regional map as a standalone tourist destination, industry insiders claim.
Traditionally an add-on destination for longhaul travellers to neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand, Cambodia’s rapidly evolving tourism landscape is enticing visitors to extend their stay.
The Cambodian trade is pinning high hopes on luxury resort Bensley Collection – Shinta Mani Wild, slated to open on December 21 as a game-changer. It will be the first venture to offer five-star luxury in the heart of the Koh Kong jungle.
Six Senses and Alila Hotels and Resorts are gearing up to open private island resorts off the coast of Cambodia this year, while secondary destinations like Kep and Kampot are welcoming a steadily growing rush of new visitors.
Road upgrades are also making tertiary areas, such as remote Mondulkiri’s forest-hugged hills, more accessible.
Harold de Martimprey, general manager of Exo Travel Cambodia, said customers now spend an average of six days in Cambodia. He predicts the number will increase going into 2019.
Said de Martimprey: “It has been a battle and we have been trying to sell Cambodia as a single destination for years. It is finally starting to happen now.”
Ronni Dalholf, managing director of Diethelm Travel Cambodia, noted more customers visiting coastal Kep and the nearby riverside town of Kampot. “These places are becoming tourist hotspots,” he said.
In Siem Reap, German development agency GIZ has launched a series of community-driven products as part of its Siem Reap Beyond the Temples campaign.
Saloth Eng, GIZ tourism development advisor, said: “It is designed to encourage visitors to Siem Reap and the temples to stay longer and experience more of the sights and attractions the province has to offer.”
Rory Hunter, co-founder and CEO of private island resort Song Saa, is also convinced of Cambodia’s potential, predicting Siem Reap is on track to become a standalone destination itself.
“About 90 percent of visitors to Cambodia come through Siem Reap. Over the next decade, Siem Reap will become a destination within itself,” he said.
Song Saa recently unveiled its Song Saa Reserve, a 120ha integrated sustainable hospitality project near Banteay Srei temple in Siem Reap.
Update: An earlier version of the story wrote that Shinta Mani Wild would open on November 1. It has since been updated to reflect the resort’s actual opening date, which has been pushed back to December 21.