In 2019, well over two million foreign visitors wandered wide-eyed around Cambodia’s famed archeological wonder, Angkor Wat. After entry restrictions on international arrivals to the Southeast Asian nation were introduced in March, the World Heritage site saw a drop of almost 80% in foreign visitors this year.
Similar to those of its Southeast Asian neighbours, Cambodia’s tourism sector has suffered major losses, with 51,000 jobs disappearing after 2,838 tourism-related businesses suspended operations or shuttered down completely this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
Amid these devastating blows, two recent developments — a US$150 million road project in Siem Reap and the upcoming January 2021 opening of the five-star Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh — are offering a much needed breath of fresh air for Cambodia’s once-thriving travel industry.
At the recent inauguration ceremony for the roads project, prime minister Hun Sen said the construction of 38 roads in Siem Reap will modernise the city and improve the tourism experience, Khmer Times reported.
“Once it is completed, the project will connect the town to the suburbs and to major tourism sites and the national road network, aiming at reducing traffic congestion in the city, promoting transportation growth and attracting investors, business people and international tourists — which will contribute to national economic growth after the Covid-19 crisis is over,” said Hun Sen.
The road project is part of the Siem Reap Tourism Development Master Plan 2020-2035, which also includes a proposed new city in Siem Reap province, to be called Grand Siem Reap. The tourism minister hopes that development of the new city will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and attract seven million international tourists annually by 2035, local English website Cambodianess reported.
Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh.
Meanwhile, the nation’s capital will see the doors of its largest international five-star hotel open in January. The 247-room Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh, which features six bars and restaurants and nine meeting and event spaces, will provide more than 300 desperately needed jobs.
The president of Cambodia Tourism Federation, Luu Meng, told South China Morning Post that “It’s not an easy time to be opening, but providing employment is really needed, as there are a lot of people in the industry who have lost jobs, had them suspended or are no longer working full-time. To be able to come here and create employment right now is so important for Cambodia.”