The chairman of Hong Kong-listed casino resort operator NagaCorp Ltd has clarified to GGRAsia that any venture by the firm into the Siem Reap resort market would respect Cambodian government policy on gaming concerning that part of the country. Siem Reap is located near Cambodia’s UNESCO World Heritage site Angkor Wat.
NagaCorp currently has a long-life monopoly gaming licence for Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, where it runs the NagaWorld casino resort complex, which includes a shopping mall. The firm is also investing in a casino resort in the Primorksy Krai region, near the Pacific port city of Vladivostok in the far east of Russia.
NagaCorp chairman Tim McNally (pictured) told GGRAsia: “We have been keenly aware for many years that Siem Reap is considered a historical city, and in keeping with that position, our intent would be to build a hotel/resort-type complex that will delight tourists from around the world that would be visiting the splendour of the temples of Angkor Wat.”
He further noted: “We have never been under the illusion that gaming would be part of the hotel-and-resort type of development. We appreciate and understand the government policy regarding the historical significance of this region.”
Such a project in Siem Reap would be NagaCorp’s first venture into purely non-gaming tourism.
A Cambodian government official recently reiterated that casino developments were not permitted in the “area” of Angkor Wat, in Siem Reap, which gives its name to the city and province, in northwest Cambodia.
NagaCorp’s look at Siem Reap as a site for an “integrated resort” (IR) – mentioned in the firm’s profit-making first-half results, filed on August 27 – was with an eye on inbound tourism returning and growing in volume across the whole country in coming years.
“We remain confident that when the [Covid-19] virus is contained and when travel resumes, we will see a continued growth in tourism and more and more Chinese visitors coming to Phnom Penh and other destinations in Cambodia,” Mr McNally said, referring to the current pandemic crisis.
Cambodia has benefitted in recent years – prior to Covid-19 – from an increase in tourists from China and other neighbouring nations, according to data from the country’s Ministry of Tourism.
In 2019, before the global health crisis, inbound tourism from mainland China had a 35.7 percent share of the visitor market in Cambodia. Mainland Chinese accounted for just over 2.36 million arrivals last year, and the tally of such travellers was up 16.7 percent year-on-year, show the official data.
“It is in this spirit of growing tourism… that we aim to expand to locations such as Siem Reap,” stated Mr McNally.
The firm’s interim report had mentioned that the Cambodian coastal city of Sihanoukville was also being looked at by the firm, regarding a possible resort development.
Sihanoukville has grown rapidly in recent years, spurred significantly by Chinese investment in real estate projects, some of them linked to gaming, according to media reports.
Mr McNally told us: “Sihanoukville… is another key city in the long-term development of tourism in Cambodia and thus is a location we will evaluate post Covid-19, in terms of timing and overall strategy.”
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