Considered as one of the best tourist destinations in the world, Siem Reap attracts millions of visitors from all over the globe annually. As Cambodia’s unofficial tourism capital, it boasts a variety of natural and man-made attractions including some of the most spectacular temples in the world, well-maintained colonial buildings, distinctive museums, cultural theme parks, the biggest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia (The Great Tonle Sap Lake) and many breath-taking mountains.
Acknowledging the fact that Siem Reap is a major hub for tourist destination, however, there are still some untapped potentials – one of which being the lack of quality infrastructures which begs the question: Is Siem Reap the Next Best Investment Destination besides Phnom Penh? The answer is a resounding YES.
1. New International Airport On The Horizon
With an estimated number of over 1 million visitors annually touching down in the city, Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (the ONLY airport in Siem Reap) is the second busiest airport in Cambodia after the Phnom Penh International Airport. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Siem Reap still received around 400,000 international visitors during the January-September period of previous year, a 76% decrease over the same period last year, according to an Angkor Enterprise’s report. Pre-covid-19 era, Siem Reap welcomed over 3 millions domestic and international visitors in the first 9 months of 2019 alone, according to one report of Ministry of Tourism in Cambodia.
With the inevitable roll-out of Covid-19 Vaccines around the world, the number of international visitors to Siem Reap will start to rebound gradually. With this expected influx of domestic and international visitors to Siem Reap combined with the government’s ambition to expand the international tourism as well as to ease the burden of Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport, the plan to build a New International Airport has already been laid out.
The new airport which is set to become the largest airport in Cambodia (3 times larger than the current one in Siem Reap covering an area of approximately 700 hectares) is expected to be completed in March 2023. With a budget of almost $900 million, the project is being built in three phases. Once the project is finished, this new airport will be able to accommodate up to 10 million passengers annually
2. Upcoming Tourist Destination Hotspots
Cambodia-China Cultural and Creative Park
A Yunnan Cultural Industry Investment Holding Group in South western China, in a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, with the purpose of deepening mutual understanding between China and Cambodia through cultural exchanges, is planning to build a Cambodia-China Cultural and Creative Park. This large-scale tourism project will be developed by Angkor International Culture Investment and Development (Cambodia) Co., Ltd with a reported budget of $70 million. Situated in close proximity to the Sokha Siem Reap Hotel, the park is being constructed on a land area of 3.3 hectares. The project will feature 1500-seat “Smile of Angkor” theatre, a Chenla Cultural Corridor, a Daguan Museum, a Cambodia-China Cultural Exchange Center, Cultural Creative Production Expo Center, Catering Cultural Center and many more. Once finished, the park will become Siem Reap’s new tourist destination hotspot ready to welcome both local and international visitors.
Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Project
Developed by Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium, in cooperation with Japanese and US investors, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is a world-class aquarium park which will be built on a 100-hectare land area with an accumulated budget of $70 million. With the ambition of competing with Siem Reap’s number one attraction (the Angkor Wat), it aims to become one of the must-see destinations for people coming to visit the province. Once finished, not only will it help develop the national economy, but it will also play a huge part in educating local and international guests concerning the environment and the essence of conserving the natural resources.
Song Saa Reserve
Built on its previous achievement of the multi-award winning Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia’s first high-class coastal resort, the Song Saa Reserve, situated in close proximity to the famous Banteay Srei Temple (just 5 minutes away) and only 20 minutes away from Siem Reap’s number one attraction (the Angkor Wat), seeks to set a global benchmark for premium, environmentally and socially conscious tourism development with the country’s first ethically led mixed-use resort. With a 35-hectare lake as a central feature, the resort will feature hotels and villa residences along with initiatives focused on sustainable development such as educational centers, a solar farm and restored sections of indigenous rainforest. This project will also provide the perfect opportunity for investors to purchase plots for hospitality-based projects and with approximately more than 120 hectares of land available, there’s a great opportunity for developers to consider projects on an unprecedented scale in Siem Reap province.
Angkor Lake of Wonder by NagaCorp
NagaCorp, a Casino Operator, has announced its plan to build a world-class integrated resort – a nongambling one featuring a theme park, a water park, cultural gardens, meeting facilities, 2 five-star hotels and a range of culinary attractions adjacent to the Angkor Archaeological Park (just 500 meters away). The proposed resort will be twice the size of California’s Disneyland and will be built on a 75-hectare land area with the accumulated budget of $350 million. Scheduled to be finished by 2025, the Angkor Lake of Wonder will be designed by the American architectural firms Steelman Partners (the design firm behind the famous NagaWorld) and Gensler, with its master plan based on the concept of generating as much fun and play as possible in the resort. Once finished, the resort will significantly increase the number of local and international tourists coming to visit Siem Reap.
3. The Exciting Announcement of Tourism Development and Land Use Master Plan for 2035
The Minister of Tourism along with the minister of Environment, the minister of Culture and Fine Arts and the Provincial Governor of Siem Reap have agreed on five main areas which serve as a key Tourism Development Master Plan towards 2035 during the inter-ministerial meeting. During the discussion, the commission agreed that this Tourism Development Master Plan will act as an integral mechanism in response to the current and future situation, which will be vital to the government’s ambitious plan to transform Siem Reap to become an even more attractive destination hotspot for international visitors and globally renowned for the preservation and protection of cultural and natural heritage. The plan is to create new tourism development areas, establish a new tourism corridor based on the quality and attractiveness of Siem Reap, introduce a policy aimed at providing a new identity to Siem Reap, develop a new tourism marketing strategy, improve the water, land, rail and air facilities and to also develop governance and institutional mechanisms along with investment strategies — both public and private — to support development and to implement the master plan in an effective manner.
The Ministry of Land Management Urban Planning and Construction also revealed to the public the land use master plan 2035 for Siem Reap which will provide a solid foundation for the land management and development direction of the province. With this master plan unveiled, the government hopes that there will be an even more effective management and governance of Siem Reap through sustainable development. According to the master plan, the city has an accumulated 44,147 hectares of land area which are divided into two types (35, 995 hectares limited for construction and 8,152 hectares applicable for construction).
4. The Emerging City To The East
Situated in close proximity to the under-construction new Siem Reap Airport, the new city called “Grand Siem Reap” will be developed into a “Smart City” as part of the Tourism Development Master Plan 2020-2035. The plan to establish a new city is to provide more housing options to meet the growing demands of local and international residents. Located 60 kilometers east of the current Siem Reap city which cannot accommodate high-rise buildings or constructions due to the main concern of affecting the cultural heritage, the new city will be designed drawing the inspiration from the Khmer architecture. Although there is no confirmed date for the project, a team from the Ministry of Tourism is thoroughly studying the plan.
5. Renovation Projects To Modernize The City Are Well Underway
Under the presence of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the ground-breaking ceremony of the 38-road renovation project in Siem Reap was held on 30th November 2020. With a huge budget of $150 million, after its completion, the project will act as an intertwined infrastructure bridging the urban area to the outskirt of the city as well as linking major tourist destination sites and the national road network together. The aim of this renovation project is to reduce the traffic congestion in the town, promote transportation growth and to attract local and international investors and entrepreneurs to invest in Siem Reap.
The prime minister Hun Sen also reallocated a budget of $5 million (previously allocated to the national budget thanks to the remaining budget of 34-road construction in Sihanoukville) to revamp 9km of sidewalk along Siem Reap River.
6. Prestigious Hotel Brand, Rosewood, to open in Siem Reap in 2022
With the plan to expand its hotel footprint in Southeast Asia thanks to the strong business potential and a preferred destination among international travelers in the region, Rosewood Hotel Group is aiming to open 3 more hotel chains in Southeastern part of Asia including Rosewood Hoi An in Vietnam in 2021, Rosewood Siem Reap in 2022 and Rosewood Hermana Mayor in the Philippines in 2023. Having already operated Rosewood Phnom Penh, a five-star hotel situated within Cambodia’s tallest building, Vattanac Capital Tower, this Hong Kong-based luxury hotel brand is considered as one of the world’s leading hotel chains with its impressive operations of 27 properties in 15 countries through Rosewood Hotels and Resorts.