The government’s hopes of turning Sihanoukville into a major industrial hub have experts touting the coastal town’s strong economic potential, with commentators agreeing that the province has a range of diversified opportunities for growth.
Ho Vandy, advisor to the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, told Post Property this week that he expected Sihanoukville to rival Siem Reap within the next five to 10 years as the province continued its growth in tourist numbers, infrastructure development and foreign investment.
“I think that if we talk about the scale of the economy and government revenue, Sihanoukville can earn more than Siem Reap, but the amount of tourists cannot be compared with Siem Reap’s,” Vandy said.
“Sihanoukville has diversified economic prospects while Siem Reap relies heavily on tourism,” he added.
Chrek Soknim, Chief Executive Officer of Century 21 Mekong, agreed that Sihanoukville had strong potential for economic growth in the future when compared with Siem Reap.
“Without tourists, Siem Reap would face serious issues since commercial trade in Siem Reap depends on tourism. Sihanoukville has high economic potential which will sustain the province in terms of long-term growth,” he said.
In line with the government’s aim to develop Sihanoukville into an industrial hub, the province’s Special Economic Zone currently houses more than 100 Chinese companies while the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port is set for a massive $300 million expansion.
At the same time, Sihanoukville’s international airport is getting busier, with more airlines announcing direct flights from the coastal town.
State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesman Sin Chanserey Vutha said Sihanoukville’s airport is welcoming more passengers every year.
“We are expecting an increase in tourism arrivals, estimated to be around 1 million next year, whereas we only had about 600,000 last year,” he said.
Cheng Kheng, head of Hutton CPL’s advisory board said Sihanoukville and Siem Reap were vastly different, with each province having their own unique attractions. However, Kheng said Sihanoukville was developing at a faster pace as a result of the flurry of investment activity.
Sok Siphana, a government advisor and principal attorney of Sok Siphana & Associates, said Sihanoukville displayed much promise on the economic front.
“We cannot compare Siem Reap and Sihanoukville as they are like a banana and a watermelon but I think in less than ten years, Sihanoukville will become the second economic pole following Phnom Penh,” he said.