From Underdog to Champion: Cambodia’s Successful Hosting of 2023 SEA Games

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Cambodia shines as host of 2023 SEA Games, boosting tourism and economy.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia | The Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) is a biennial multi-sport event that brings together athletes from 11 Southeast Asian countries and for the first time ever, Cambodia had the opportunity to host the 32nd SEA Games that took place on May 5 to 17—marking a major achievement in its sports and tourism industries. However, the benefits of hosting the SEA Games go beyond sports, as it also presents opportunities for the Kingdom’s economic growth and development.

Hosting the SEA Games: A Major Achievement for Cambodia

The decision to host the SEA Games in Cambodia was not without challenges. The country had to build new sports facilities and infrastructure to meet international requirements, which required a significant investment of time and resources. However, Cambodia have successfully overcame these challenges, showcasing its ability to host large-scale international, world-class events.

According to various reports, the total cost is estimated to be between $100 million and $200 million. The majority of the costs have been incurred in the construction of new sporting facilities, such as the Morodok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh which cost about $160 million to build – the second largest in Southeast Asia, next to Malaysia’s Bukit Jalil and nearly double the size of My Dinh Stadium in Vietnam.

Cambodia is also the first host in SEA Games history to cover all expenses for participating countries, making the event FREE for everyone. This includes transportation, accommodation, and meals. Other costs associated with hosting the SEA Games include the construction of new roads and other infrastructure, the provision of security, and the organization of the event itself.

Boosting Tourism: Opportunities for Cambodia

Cambodia’s hosting of the 32nd SEA Games has the potential to attract more tourists to the kingdom in the long term, as it provides an opportunity to showcase its rich history, diverse culture, and stunning landscapes to visitors from all over the world. The event has drawn thousands of athletes, officials, and tourists, leading to increased revenue in the tourism sector which is a major contributor to its economy.

Other Asian countries have also benefitted economically from hosting major sporting events, such as the SEA Games. When the Philippines hosted the 30th SEA Games in 2018, the government has noted an increase in tourist volume and estimated to have generated over $1 billion in economic activity which as a result, helped boost tourism and investment in the country.

Cambodia Tourism Minister, Thong Khon, already mentioned that the Kingdom received about 1.2 million foreign arrivals in the first three months of the year. From that, he projected about 500,000 foreign arrivals on the month of SEA Games. Thailand is accounted for the biggest share of visitors (32.8%), followed by Vietnam (15.7%), China (9.5%), and Laos (4.9%), respectively.

Boosting the Economy: Opportunities for Cambodia

The economic benefits of hosting the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia are expected to be significant. PM Hun Sen has expressed his confidence that the event will be a major boost for the country’s economy and image on the world stage.

Hosting the SEA Games can generate demand for local goods and services, which can create new jobs and improve the country’s GDP. In addition, the event can also attract foreign investors who are interested in Cambodia’s growing economy and its potential for further development. This can lead to new partnerships and collaborations between Cambodia and other countries, which can further advance the country’s economic growth.

“By all accounts the event was a great success and will serve as a showcase of Cambodia’s recent economic and social progress and further highlight our development ambitions for the future.  Cambodia may be a small country but it’s by no means an amateur on the world stage.  I think the games will have enhanced the country’s reputation significantly, especially regionally and will no doubt have a positive impact across the economy as Cambodia develops SEA and global relationships further.  I’m expecting a big win for foreign direct investments”, says Adam Fitzpatrick, Country Director for IPS Cambodia, a leading Cambodia real estate agency.

Future Developments: New Infrastructure Projects in Cambodia

Apart from the SEA Games-related projects, the government has also invested in new infrastructure projects to support the growth of Cambodia’s tourism and economy. These projects include the new international airport in Siem Reap, which will make it easier for tourists to visit Cambodia, and the new expressway connecting Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, which will improve transportation and logistics.

David Granger, IPS Siem Reap Branch Director, is confident that these future developments will also increase the number foreign and even local investors coming to Siem Reap.

“The international airport will bring in more people from all countries and will also encourage additional investment to come into Siem Reap.” David commented. “There’s a new Siem Reap city planned for development around the new airport which will allow for many types of construction that was previously not permitted in the current city centre. There are already many other housing developments under development in the areas around the new airport. The new expressway from PP to SR will bring ever increasing amounts of local investors to Siem Reap, as connectivity between the 2 cities becomes easier.”, he added.

The government has also approved investments in renewable energy projects which is not only improving the country’s energy situation but also creating new employment opportunities and as the Kingdom continues to invest in new infrastructure projects and develop its economy, it is poised to become a major player in the Southeast Asian region.


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