The government is planning to boost Cambodia’s attractiveness as a second-home tourist destination for foreign retirees, according to a draft policy obtained from the Ministry of Tourism Wednesday.
The draft includes a range of proposals to extract more income from Cambodia’s tourist industry by encouraging foreigners to buy property and stay longer in the country, with involvement from the ministries of tourism, finance and land management.
The proposed policies include the development of “special residences” throughout the country consisting of commercial tourist properties and a wide range of complementary facilities. “Special tourists” would have the right to buy, rent or sell property in these residences, and also be entitled to longer-term and more flexible visas, according to the draft.
While many of the details have yet to be finalized, Ho Vandy, managing director of World Express Tours and Travel, was hopeful that it would ease restrictions and allow tourists to own private ground units, which would draw higher-value tourists to the country.
“These proposals look to attract retirees who have more disposable income and tourists with a higher budget who wish to visit Cambodia regularly with family,” said Mr. Vandy, who is also an adviser to the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce.
“At the moment I think the government is considering national parks and coastal areas for development, which attracts these kind of people.”
In International Living Magazine’s 2016 Global Retirement Index, released last month, Cambodia ranked 21 out of 23 countries recognized as the world’s best retirement havens.
Cambodia first entered the index in 2014 and this year received the top spot for the “cost of living” category, but ranked less positively for “infrastructure,” “healthcare” and “benefits & discounts.”
The proposals laid out in the new policy, however, represented a move toward boosting the country’s international competitiveness in attracting foreign retirees, said Alexis de Suremain, a hotelier in Phnom Penh.
“Legally, people want to be able to own condominiums and villas to retire by the sea, and Malaysia and Thailand are the reference point for this,” Mr. de Suremain said.
“At the moment, people would not be allowed to own their property or land—but I know many are looking to settle down in Kep and Siem Reap.”
If the government can improve the country’s infrastructure and international image, there is a real opportunity for Cambodia to attract retirees, Mr. de Suremain added.
“In addition to these proposed resort areas to buy and own villa and land, security and medical-care facilities need to be prioritized to really draw in the elderly retirees,” he said.