Last updated: 10:42 AM ET, Wed June 17 2015

Cambodia Grows and Links Up with Thailand

Destination & Tourism | James Ruggia | June 16, 2015

Cambodia Grows and Links Up with Thailand

PHOTO: Zannier Hotels opened the Phum Baitang (Luxury Green), just opened on the outskirts of Siem Reap. (Courtesy of Zannier Hotels)

Are we seeing the early impact of the ASEAN Economic Community? On Friday, the modern governments of two ancient and often rival Southeast Asian kingdoms struck an accord on a joint visa that should reward both countries with more visitors. The Phnom Penh Post reported that Cambodia and Thailand announced the “Two Kingdoms, One Destination” pact, which will create a single visa for visitors to both countries. For Thailand, the move will help consolidate Bangkok’s role as the chief gateway into the countries of former Indochina. For Cambodia the rewards should be even greater.

According to the Post, Cambodia attracted some 4.5 million foreign tourists in 2014, a 7 percent growth over 2013, contributing about $3 billion to Cambodia’s $15 billion GDP. In the first quarter of 2015, Cambodia attracted about 1.3 million foreign tourists for a 3.1 percent increase from the 1.27 million tourists in first quarter 2014. Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism is targeting 5 million foreign tourists this year.

The campaign, which is primarily designed to stimulate inter-ASEAN travel, is projected to run from 2015 to 2017. As all of those Southeast Asian travelers begin to move more freely throughout the region they’re stimulating new hotels, new routes and new attractions. Destination Asia, a land operator in Southeast Asia, seems to stay well ahead of the pack in finding the new hotels and experiences that are the most innovative in Cambodia and Southeast Asia in general.

New Cambodian product is turning up in Siem Reap outside of Angkor Wat, in the capital of Phnom Penh and on the private resort island of Song Saa. Siem Reap, which just 20 years ago was a sleepy backwater now is sporting shopping malls. Last year, for instance, the King’s Road Angkor shopping and entertainment complex opened near the Siem Reap River with a multitude of bars, restaurants and cafes including the first Hard Rock Café in Cambodia.

A new resort from luxury brand Zannier Hotels, the Phum Baitang or Luxury Green, just opened on the outskirts of Siem Reap. The resort’s 45 villas are situated inside about 20 acres of gardens and rice paddies. About 25 of them have private terraces and 20 more have private plunge pools. The villas are made from naturally sourced wood and raised on stilts. The resort’s spa has seven treatment rooms, a sauna and steam room. Phum Baitang also offers two restaurants, one locally inspired and the other serving international dishes using vegetables from the resort’s own garden.

In Phnom Penh, the 12-room Teav boutique hotel features a tropical garden and swimming pool. The hotel features wall-drawn art from traditional Khmer Apsara and Monorea dance scenes. Rooms range from 32 square meter deluxe rooms to 50 square meter suites, each with Wi-Fi, complimentary tourist SIM cards and premium room amenities. The hotel offers both European, Asian and Khmer cuisine.

Samsara Villa, another new Phnom Penh boutique property, sits on the site of the former Royal Residence in a quiet residential area. Located near the city’s attractions and about six miles from the airport, the hotel’s 20 rooms are complemented by a large pool and garden as well as a restaurant.

Song Saa private island resort has 27 overwater bungalows, jungle and ocean view villas, and a two-bedroom Royal Villa each with its own private plunge pool. Guests can dine at the over-water Vista Restaurant and Bar and enjoy the view from the beachside Driftwood Bar. The Wellness Sanctuary features numerous spa treatments, an infinity pool, yoga and meditation on the beach, water sports, hiking in the rainforest, ecological tours and more.

In March, Avalon Waterways introduced a new 36-guest Suite Ship on the Mekong River sailing between Vietnam and Cambodia. The Avalon Siem Reap was built by local craftsman with 18 245-square-foot suites each with the brand’s signature Open-Air Balcony featuring floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall panoramic windows measuring 14-feet-wide with doors that slide open a full 9-feet, creating the feeling of sitting outside.

“The Avalon Siam Reap is the only ship in the industry cruising all the way from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap (or vice versa), as water levels allow,” said Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways. Avalon Waterways is offering 10 percent discounts on all 2016 sailings on the Mekong and Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River as well.

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