Fleeing Chinese investors leave Cambodian resort littered with ‘ghost buildings’

Sihanoukville has around 360 unfinished buildings and 170 others that are finished but empty, the city government says (Kiensvay/CC BY-SA 3.0 Deed)
The Cambodian coastal resort of Sihanoukville has been left with hundreds of empty or unfinished buildings after the collapse of a Chinese tourism and investment boom, Nikkei Asia reports.

The city’s government says there are around 360 unfinished buildings and 170 others that are finished but empty.

It would cost some $1.1bn more to finish the “ghost buildings”, the Cambodian government has estimated.

Chinese tourists flocked to the city throughout the 2010s, and Chinese investors poured money into casinos and other commercial real estate.

But the covid pandemic and the bursting of China’s real estate bubble brought that activity to a standstill, Nikkei observed.

Last year saw only around 550,000 Chinese tourists visited Cambodia, down 77% from 2019, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

And only 15,754 passengers arrived at Sihanoukville international airport last year, a 98% decline from 2019, Nikkei said.

Nikkei captured the scale of the craze by interviewing a 51-year-old elementary school teacher who was persuaded by a Chinese investor to hand over their 750-sq-m vacant lot in order to build a 10-storey apartment building on it in 2019.

Construction began, but when the covid pandemic struck, the investor abandoned the scheme and returned to China, leaving a concrete shell.

The teacher had to appeal to local authorities to begin dissolving the contract.

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