Cambodia’s free vaccine program is eight months ahead of schedule but real estate companies need to do a lot more to get customers back to their premises and feel safe again.
Around the world, life is slowly getting back to normal.
While there are still lockdowns and people still hesitate to fully trust safety protocols, there’s an earnest desire to resume normal activity. Kids want to go to schools, people want to go to work and friends want to meet.
But the venues that host such activity need to change. They must face the reality that life cannot be the same as it was before a global pandemic upended life as we know it.
While a number of steps have been taken by real estate companies to enhance hygiene standards at shopping malls, residential communities and offices, a lot more can still be done.
According to the World Bank, nearly all jobs in the country involve ‘low-skill’ occupations such as manual labor, cooking and farming, with managerial and professional positions less than 5% of the market. However, there’s still going to be far greater use of online technology across professions as Covid-enforced lockdowns have changed habits.
If something can be done online then it will be done online in the future (even if conservatism will mean many will continue to resist change). Real estate companies will need to understand that and help people across Cambodia adopt a hybrid work style. Offices and workplaces need to be reconfigured to make them more lively for employees making the workday more meaningful as well.
Work-from-home can help young mothers keen to work from home, for example. Children might be able to do a lot more tutoring at home as well. Meanwhile, the heavy use of online tools like video conferencing, video calling and e-commerce apps means venues will need to be able to handle increased data traffic.
On a related note, the increased adoption of internet-based services means that many merchants have resorted to selling online and would rather not have a physical presence. Social media has become a powerful enabler for small business growth and the trend will only accelerate. It means that commercial property owners will need to upgrade their premises so that shoppers will have a compelling reason to visit malls and tenants will need to be given the support they need so they feel convinced of the need for a shopfront or a presence inside a shopping mall.
Meanwhile, it’s worth bearing in mind that a lot more people are health-conscious around the world due to the global health crisis. Notice the rise in interest in physical activities everywhere you go.
It means new real estate projects will need to keep in view these changing attitudes towards health. Jogging routes will need to be added to master plans for various types of buildings, for example. Homes will also need to be designed to accommodate exercise spaces or at least be situated near parks. Offices, similarly, will be more attractive if there are exercise-related service providers like crossfit training centers, gyms etc.
The importance of having a local supply chain is becoming more clear too – consumers want to be able to access a variety of amenities like supermarkets, hospitals, schools and pharmacies in case there is another emergency. The track record of property development companies over the course of the pandemic will be scrutinized a lot more closely.
Finally, the rise in climate change-related disasters means individuals and businesses are a lot more critical of property that does not stand up to scrutiny. Cambodians are unhappy that boreys could not withstand floods due to heavy rainfall with potential buyers rethinking the location of their future homes in the market.
Are real estate companies responding well?
In short, they are.. but it requires a seismic change in attitudes across different departments to really embrace the digital transformation that is taking place across industries worldwide.
While cost is an important component to the decisions of any consumer or business, the calculus is changing. Real estate developers in Cambodia are making early plans to make sure they stay ahead of the curve.
One example is Canopy Sands Development, part of Prince Holding Group (“Prince Group”), which has been embracing sustainable real estate development principles.
Its flagship project in Sihanoukville is Ream City, a 834-ha project that could become a landmark in the country in 20 years as it will feature family attractions, condominiums, landed and beachfront homes and affordable housing estates, shopping malls, business hubs and more a short distance away from the airport.
According to Khong Weng Fook, managing director of Canopy Sands Development, the project, which will be built on reclaimed land, will involve ideas like resource recycling, transit-oriented development, ecological restoration efforts and involve hiring design consultants who have an experience on designing green initiatives amongst other design-related aspects.
The project is in its earliest stages. It won’t be live for a while yet. However, the broader group has a lineage of delivering on its projects in record time. In less than a decade, Chen Zhi Cambodia and Prince Group has worked on more than 20 projects situated in the heart of Phnom Penh while also launching Prince Huan Yu Mall, an ornately designed institution that has brought in famous brands like Starbucks, KFC, NIKE, Miniso, Levi’s, Samsonite, ALDO, LOCK & LOCK, Raidy Boer, CBO, LG, Smart and Chow Tai Fook to what was once a sleepy town.
A strong response over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic also ensured the real estate-focused group won several international awards for taking care of its employees, visitors and premises.
Led by Neak Oknha Chen Zhi, Chairman of Prince Group, it’s one of a wave of new developers that are bringing in international talent, an awareness of international norms and a willingness to work closely with governmental departments to ensure it follows relevant rules and regulations.
Improve finished projects, launch new era
Real estate developers in Cambodia will need to take the pandemic as a turning point. Not only will their existing projects need to be improved further to make sure they suit the needs of a changing population and modern societal and climate-related developments, they will need to build with a green perspective for future projects.
As Cambodia urbanizes and new industries develop, real estate developers, whether they’re focusing on commercial, residential, industrial or other types of property, will play an important role.
Getting it right will ensure Cambodians will interact in improved venues that enhance the quality of life at work and home and make a start in the collective effort to deal with worsening climate change.
It will require leadership from the top and require upskilling and reskilling as well as raise awareness of such issues across the real estate ecosystem – employees, suppliers, consultants, marketing agencies and even consumers and tenants.
If done right, real estate development can be a both profitable endeavour and a force for good in a fast-developing Cambodia.