Sizing up Sihanoukville

Courtesy: Andrew Klebanow

Construction in the once sleepy seaside town of Sihanoukville is everywhere, with cranes, cement trucks, container lorries, and excavation generating clouds of endless dust. Of all the locations in Cambodia seeing an increase in foreign casino investment, the coastal town is far and away the most buoyant. Out of the 52 new casino licenses granted in 2018, 78 percent of those went to operators seeking to set up shop in Sihanoukville. The rapid transformation, driven by billions of dollars of Chinese investment, has inevitably lead to concerns that the development is not sustainable. It’s driving up prices for locals and pushing away visitors from its traditional tourism markets. However, experts say there are a series of factors underlying the boom that should underpin the market, as long as relations with China remain stable. The changes may have scared away penny pinching backpackers, but they are being replaced by high-spending...

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