Chinese Firm Unveils $3B Plan for Hotels in Capital, S’ville

A Chinese firm has put forward plans for a $3 billion investment in two luxury hotels in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville in an apparent bid to attract high-end tourists and business travelers and cash in on an increasing number of Chinese visitors.

Chinese real-estate investment company Guangzhou R&F Property has partnered with the local Royal Group, headed by tycoon Kith Meng, to build what it is billing as the country’s first “six-star” hotels, according to Chinese media.

Zhang Li, CEO of Guangzhou R&F Properties, shakes hands with Prime Minister Hun Sen before a meeting in Mr. Hun Sen’s office building on Wednesday in Phnom Penh, in a photograph posted to the prime minister’s Facebook page.

Guangzhou’s CEO Zhang Li met with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday at his office building in Phnom Penh. Photographs of the meeting were posted to the prime minister’s Facebook page along with a message about the investment plans.

“As a first step, Mr. Zhang Li is interested in investing in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville to build six-star hotels,” the statement said.

“The country is in need of top-class hotels, as the number of tourists to Cambodia is increasing every year. A large number of foreign visitors want to visit Cambodia only in the context of staying in five-star hotels,” it said. “This investment is also in line with the One Belt, One Road policy of China,” referring to China’s regional economic strategy.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting Cambodia jumped nearly 14 percent from 2015 to last year, as of October, according to Tourism Ministry data.

While details of the megaprojects have not been made public, those in the tourism industry said a globally recognized, high-end hotel would be a welcome addition to Sihanoukville’s tourism offerings, particularly as the town hoped to attract wealthy Chinese visitors.

“Chinese tourists in Sihanoukville mostly want to stay in high-class hotels,” said Tang Socheat Kreasna, director of Sihanoukville’s tourism department. “Businesspeople want to stay in five-star [hotels], so this will give them another venue.”

Luu Meng, co-chair of the public-private sector working group on tourism, said the project would help attract a new type of tourist to the coast. “It will not take away from the market share already here. It will attract more visitors.”

Without knowing the exact plans, he said it was difficult to gauge whether $3 billion was a reasonable figure, but said that the hotels alone would cost tens of millions each, and that buying enough land in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville could cost hundreds of millions more.

Ho Vandy, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Tourism Alliance, said there were currently only two five-star hotels in Sihanoukville. He estimated that there were five to seven in Phnom Penh.

The proposed hotels would “show the tourism sector’s strength to attract high-class Chinese tourists to come to visit, who currently account for about 30 percent of the total number of Chinese tourists in the country,” Mr. Vandy said.

While few hotels have registered with the Tourism Ministry to receive a quality ranking after a new government rating system was announced in October, Mr. Socheat Kreasna said officials were trying to get more hotels in Sihanoukville rated this year.

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