The “will it” or “won't it” recovery seems to be an ongoing lingering question on the future of Sihanoukville. Without a doubt, the southern coastal region of Cambodia saw unprecedented booms and the last few years have been tough going but there appears to be a more cooperative and long-term vision shaping the pathway for the province with infrastructure, developmental, investment and tourism all key aspects and synergies of the plan to re-instil confidence into the property sector and investment in general.
Since the new Cambodian Prime Minister took office, Hun Manet has been on a mission to extend and mend international relations and look to diversify the partnerships that the Kingdom is working with - lessons no doubt learned from the pandemic - and Sihanoukville is a focal point of these efforts.
Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway
The Chinese-invested Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has been a success story for the multi-infrastructure investment projects that have been undertaken, and many more are underway and in the pipeline.
On the one-year anniversary of the opening of the only active Cambodian expressway on November 7 2023, Hun Manet said the expressway had played an important role in improving the efficiency of travel, as the travel time (one on the expressway) had been reduced to approximately two hours.
He added it has “become a new economic artery to serve the transportation and connectivity” and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport confirmed that between 4.7 and 5.1 million vehicles had travelled on the expressway during its first year of operation (depending on the reports used)
Crispian Knowles, Sales Manager in Sihanoukville for Realestate.com.kh said, “The new Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville Expressway has reduced travel time going from the capital to the coast. From travelling around 6 hours before, the travel time now stands at 2 hours.
He added on the general sentiment for the region, “Despite previous setbacks over the past years, I predict that Sihanoukville is on the cusp of a comeback, suggesting that redemption may be near for the city. I believe that Sihanoukville will continue to be an attractive investment area due to its accessibility.”
More Direct Flights To Sihanoukville Are Needed
In November 2023, there were renewed calls for Cambodia’s airports to increasingly connect with more airlines and airport hubs as tourism remains such a core pillar in driving economic growth and in employment .
With the launch of the new Siem Reap Angkor International Airport, and the pending operational launch of the new international airport in Phnom Penh potentially by 2025, the government will want to see a large influx of tourism to reward their investment into expanding the airport's capabilities in Cambodia.
As such, Hun Manet called for more direct flights from other tourism spots in the region to Cambodia (with a particular focus on Sihanoukville). He said, “The establishment of direct flights to Sihanoukville is crucial. We need to figure out how to improve the connectivity of Sihanoukville with other tourist destinations. Some of the potential target routes included Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Maldives, China, and Indonesia
January-September 2023 saw a 162 per cent increase in air travel as 1.34 million foreign tourists (34 per cent of 3.7 million total tourist arrivals) came to Cambodia and the country remains on track for its 2023 estimates but currently, it is still only 50 per cent compared to 2019 (before the global pandemic).
The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) reported:
- The total number of flight movements was 37,200 for the three Cambodian international airports between January and September 2023.
- A weekly average of 850 flights (combined for domestic and international flights) at the three international airports
Sihanoukville - Model Multi-purpose Special Economic Zone
Sihanoukville is being developed into a “Model Multi-purpose Special Economic Zone” but its intended design and the strategy for the coastal Cambodian city has morphed over the years.
The master plan is highly ambitious and projects to increase the city’s population to one million (with current population estimates at 300,000). This spike will be boosted by the growth in the SEZ and seaports, utilising smart technology, and ongoing mass-scale developments and investment.
Previously we have addressed some of the impressive and important infrastructure projects underway, particularly on the Cambodian coast and the plan to connect the waterways and new ports to increase exports, tourism and general connectivity in the region.
Hun Manet in November 2023 again reaffirmed the plans to develop Preah Sihanouk province as THE logistics hub of Cambodia.
We have also learned that in addition to the strong Asian interest in the hub and the existing Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SSEZ), an American delegation will be visiting Preah Sihanoukville in mid-November 2023. The SEZ is Cambodia’s largest industrial park (size and occupancy) and is estimated to employ about 30,000 people.
Further to the announced plans to deal with the issues of the large number of abandoned buildings in Sihanoukville city, (as part of Cambodia’s Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025 & Sihanoukville Masterplan), the Cambodian Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) has been entrusted with developing the railway and deep seaport infrastructure to facilitate the increased and more efficient movement of goods from and into the Kingdom.
To make the port more competitive, three development phases aim to transform Sihanoukville Autonomous Port into a deep-sea port by 2029. When the first phase of the multi-phase deep-water Sihanoukville Autonomous Port expansion is completed, it is expected to reduce the cost of shipping from between USD $400-$500 currently, to USD $200 per container.
Knowles added, “Nowadays, Sihanoukville offers some opportunities in terms of rental yields. Actually, you can easily achieve 8-10% due to the low cost of living and high demand for rental properties in the city.”
One of the most impressive and ambitious projects is The Bay of Lights. The 934-hectare developmental city encompasses a huge and diverse range of accommodations, amenities (including clinics and education centres), entertainment and leisure facilities. Upon completion of the first stage, 427 hectares will be completed with a built space providing infrastructure and amenities.
The area will be less than a ten-minute drive by car from the Sihanouk International Airport and will be connected to key industrial hubs such as the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port and the Sihanoukville SEZ.
Knowles added, “This is yet another great attraction or addition to the Sihanoukville province, with various real estate residential options. Various leading real estate investors like Canopy Sands Development and Prince Real Estate Group are taking the front seat for a strategic partnership, which in turn has built confidence in the investor mindset, and with prices at below market value, this makes for the perfect opportunity to secure future growth investments.”
Realestate.com.kh Presence In Sihanoukville
In September 2023, Realestate.com.kh opened a brick-and-mortar presence in the coastal city.
The leading online property company in Cambodia said at the time, “We are thrilled to announce that Realestate.com.kh has expanded its presence with the opening of our brand-new office in the beautiful coastal city of Sihanoukville. With a strong market recovery, we are excited to serve renters, buyers and sellers to the high level of professionalism and dedication that realestate.com.kh is known for.”