Tourism Ministry Hopes to Create 900,000 Jobs with New City in Siem Reap

Cambodia's Tourism Minister Thong Khon speaks during a meeting in Phnom Penh. Photo from Ministry of Tourism.
  • Phoung Vantha and Ou Sokmean
  • October 28, 2020 8:58 AM

With the proposed new city in Siem Reap Province—Grand Siem Reap—currently being reviewed by the government, the Minister of Tourism hopes new destination development will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and bring in 7 million international tourists annually by 2035.

PHNOM PENH--The Ministry of Tourism on Oct. 28 announced plans to build a new city in Siem Reap Province to connect more tourism destinations, with a goal of bringing in 7 million international tourists annually by 2035.

The Tourism Minister Thong Khon said these plans have been proposed to the government and aim to develop more destinations within Siem Reap Province. The Siem Reap Tourism Development Master Plan has been submitted to the National Commission for Tourism Development and the Tourism Ministry is expecting a review and approval as soon as possible.

He said that the four new major tourist destinations including the Tonle Sap Lake, Phnom Kulen, Banteay Srei and a new city in Sot Nikum District, Siem Reap Province initially announced in September 2019, that Khon said would be called Grand Siem Reap.

“The new city in Siem Reap is being built in order to support the current city of Siem Reap, which cannot support any more development of tall buildings or structures that could affect the cultural heritage,” he said.

Khon went on to explain that the new city will be constructed outside of the protected areas of Apsara Authorities, close to the new Siem Reap International Airport and will be developed as a Smart City with traditional Khmer architectural style. He did not explain what elements of Smart City development would be included.

Previously the Ministry of Tourism has suggested that the new city would aim to become a commercial hub, which would allow Siem Reap as a province to move beyond its reliance on tourism. The plan his ministry has devised could create some 900,000 jobs, said Khon, but did not elaborate on what kind of jobs would become available or when they could be expected.

However, Khon stressed that the plan remains a plan for now and until it is approved he cannot confirm whether it will definitely go ahead.

This comes after a disastrous year for Cambodian tourism, where the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a decrease of 74.1 percent of international tourists in the first nine months of 2020. But the decline in visitors was evident in 2019, the first nine of months of which saw Siem Reap welcome just 3.2 million international tourists—a 27.5 percent drop from 2018.

Compounding the issue, domestic tourism has dropped by 51.9 percent in the first nine months of the year compared to the same period in 2019, according to Khon.

As one of the four critical engines of growth, Cambodia’s tourism sector pulled in $4.9 billion in 2019, with some 6.6 million international tourists arriving over the course of the year. The first nine months of 2020 have told a very different story, with some 100,000 jobs lost—roughly 20 percent of the nation’s tourism sector are out of work—and almost 3,000 businesses have closed or at least suspended their operations.

While the government has throughout the year attempted to cushion the blow, it remains unclear the when and how the sector will recover as official estimates suggest that $3 billion in tourism revenue has been lost as a result of the pandemic.

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