An increase in regional flights, coupled with the introduction of international hotels and conference centres have contributed to the expansion of Cambodiaâ€™s business travel market.
The ancient temples at Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap have been the countryâ€™s major draw, allowing the city to be positioned as Cambodiaâ€™s main destination for business events.
However, the capital city has caught up in recent years with the entry of numerous boutique and internationally-branded hotels, as well as upmarket Khmer and Western restaurants. Phnom Penh is now regarded as a hub for meetings and conferences.
Michael James Parker, managing director of Rosewood Phnom Penh, which notes a strong demand from local and international corporates during weekdays, said: â€śThe MICE market is set to grow exponentially in Phnom Penh.â€ť
While the meeting and conference segment is growing, Steve Lidgey, general manager at Travel Asia a la Carte, noted incentives remain Cambodiaâ€™s strongest segment.
He said: â€śArguably, incentives are best suited to Cambodia. Besides the historical temples, the countryside, resort islands and easy-going way of life means the country is a playground for incentive winners who want local experiences, but also the comfort of quality hotels and resorts.â€ť
For Travel Asia a la Carte, Siem Reap remains the top choice, where delegates can visit Angkor Wat, carry out teambuilding activities, and be hosted in a huge range of four- and five-star hotels.
Added Lidgey: â€ś(This can be done) while enjoying the ease of getting around a small town without the traffic hassles of large cities such as Bangkok. Cambodia is also less well-known, and companies look for more exotic destinations as they have already visited more traditional places in previous years.â€ť
Virginie Kury, general manager at Asian Trails Cambodia, shared that the sprinkling of islands off the Cambodian coast are also rising stars among corporate groups. Developments on Koh Rong, including the opening of the luxurious The Royal Sands on Koh Rong, have added to the countryâ€™s appeal.
â€śThere are now international-standards beach resorts with a high number of rooms,â€ť she said.
However, Lidgey said higher capacity is essential for Koh Rong to cater to large corporate groups.
Factors that have helped push the countryâ€™s MICE appeal include the opening of conference centres at Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel, and Sokha Siem Reap Resort and Convention Centre.
The recent opening of international hotels, including Rosewood Phnom Penh and Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh, has also helped position the capital as a MICE contender.
The real catalyst, however, is the countryâ€™s improved air access.
Lidgey said: â€śThe largest improvement is the number of regional flights, which have increased. This means delegates from all over the world can easily reach Cambodia in the shortest time.â€ť
Despite this, the majority of airlines in Cambodia now belong to Chinese groups. Kury said the local authorities give priority to international flights to China and other Asian destinations, rather than push for longhaul connections.
â€śCambodia has become a hub for Chinese airlines as the government offers them very attractive deals,â€ť she said.
Looking ahead, Phnom Penhâ€™s MICE potential is predicted to continue growing, as the country becomes more accessible and an increase in business-related products grow.
Parker said: â€śWith the growth in direct flights from China and South-east Asia to Phnom Penh, the Kingdom has never been more accessible.â€ť
But for the country to remain competitive, more destinations need to be developed.
Noted Lidgey: â€śCambodia needs to market and grow destinations besides Siem Reap. We cannot rely on just having an excellent product in one location as companies always look for something new. Business is being lost to destinations like Danang (Vietnam) which was not on the map a few years ago.â€ť