Confronted to an image crisis and negative headlines following years of uncontrolled development by Chinese investors, Sihanoukville tries now to reign into its own created tourism chaos by asking China to help cleaning up the mess around dubious investments.
The ban on online gambling in place for over a month in Cambodia as well as a ban on further construction development in the province of Sihanoukville by local authorities have a devastating effect on the economy of the resort town. The two bans were followed by the departure of thousand of Chinese workers leaving some areas of the city empty- according to local newspapers.
While it was necessary for the government to finally reign over the mess created by hundreds of casinos and karaoke bars, the economic consequence seemed then inevitable with unemployment quickly rising in the seaside town. Specialists of Sihanoukville estimate that 90% of hotels, casinos and restaurants are these days in the hands of Chinese investors.
Sihanouk province governor Kuoch Chamroen met a couple of months ago Chinese embassy officials in Phnom Penh to convince the embassy to help finding the right investors for the province. The governor plans to attract different types of Chinese investor which could restore the image of Sihanoukville as a tourist city and shift investment away from casinos.
The provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun estimates however that the current closure of online gaming businesses will have a short-term impact on the local economy, in both the real estate and employment sectors. Discussions seemed to turn positive with the Chinese embassy promising to bring soon groups of businessmen to go to Preah Sihanouk province and invest in other areas, creating sustainable jobs,” he said.
The governor still believes that tourism investments are necessary but not in casinos or karaokes. “We need more tourism investment. The embassy will support the construction projects that will provide stability to those that have already been built,” he explained to The Phnom Penh Post.
Provincial hall spokesman Kheang Phearum told The Phnom Penh Post on Tuesday that the province has recently received three new Chinese investment projects worth more than $100 million.
The projects include a five-star hotel, a leather processing plant and a feed mill, he said. “China has promised to attract good investors in non-casinos areas to come and invest more in the Kingdom.”