Luxury Siem Reap Hotel Shuts Down Amid City’s Tourism Woes

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Siem Reap International Airport on July 11, 2018. (Oliver Dunkley/Creative Commons)
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A luxury Siem Reap hotel has shut down amid a downturn in tourists, with management saying the city’s hospitality businesses are locked in a battle to cut prices “to the point of death” in a dire market.

The four-star Apsara Angkor Resort announced it indefinitely suspended its operations starting this month, citing serious financial losses over the past two years amid a struggling industry, according to an undated statement obtained on Wednesday.

General manager Nuon Teviphea told VOD that nearly 200 employees would be affected by the closure of the hotel, which had been in operation for 18 years.

“There aren’t enough guests, and all the hotels started to drop their prices,” Teviphea said. “It’s gone to the point of death, and there are no profits.”

“We are just waiting to let all the remaining guests check out, then we will close the doors.”

According to Tourism Ministry statistics, the total number of foreign visitors to Siem Reap fell 13 percent year-on-year for the first nine months of 2019. Visitors to the city’s Angkor Archaeological Park dropped 14 percent for the first 11 months of the year, the park’s state-run operator, Angkor Enterprise, reported last month.

Tourism Ministry spokesman Top Sopheak said the downturn in Siem Reap tourists was part of a global trend, though limited tourism sites, a lack of direct flights and infrastructure also contributed.

Sopheak nevertheless downplayed the struggles of Siem Reap. “We don’t have too much to worry about. If we look more broadly, some destinations are still good. Some destinations have seen an increase over the previous year,” he said. “All of these issues are under the attention of the government.”

The ministry’s data shows international arrivals to coastal Sihanoukville’s airport quadrupling for the first nine months of 2019. However, the Labor Ministry last week said that due to a new ban on online gambling, 60 of 73 casinos in Preah Sihanouk province have since closed down or suspended staff.

Angkor Panorama Museum, sited near Angkor Wat, has also closed down in recent weeks. The shuttering, however, is considered to be due primarily to sanctions against its North Korean backers. Under 2017 U.N. sanctions, countries were required to send back North Korean workers by the middle of December 2019. 

North Korea invested $24 million into the project, with profits to be shared 50-50 between the state and Cambodia’s Apsara Authority, the government institution that oversees Angkor Archaeological Park, according to the Phnom Penh Post.

A museum statement from November 25, signed by chief executive officer Ri Kyong Il, announced the immediate closure of its operations.

Apsara Authority spokesman Long Kosal said Cambodia was fulfilling its duties as a U.N. member state. “The temporary suspension of the operations is because we, Cambodia, as a member of the United Nations, are participating in implementing the resolution of the United Nations Security Council, which placed economic sanctions against North Korea.”

Kosal added that the museum’s staff would be transferred to work in other departments within the authority.

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