Tuesday 4 January 2011


201-room hotel overlooks Mekong and one of Asia's most up-and-coming destinations

Cambodia's newest hotel, the 201-room Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra has launched unveiling eight restaurants and bars, expansive meetings facilities, a captivating new spa and fitness complex and a bold vision for Phnom Penh as the emergent hub in a country that has long lacked one.

The city's first new five-star debut since the 1990s, the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra melds classic European design and contemporary Cambodia elegance. Wooden floors, high coffered ceilings and wooden lattice are tone setters in one of the region's most eagerly awaited properties.

The USD 50 million hotel development claims a number of firsts in Phnom Penh and the region. Its 1,800-square-meter ballroom ranks as the largest in Cambodia. And its So Spa and the executive club, Club Millésime, are the first purpose-built facilities of their kind in Southeast Asia.

"This is a big step for Phnom Penh, and a big step for Cambodia," said Didier Lamoot, the general manager of the hotel, who worked five years previously as general manager of a sister property, the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort in Siem Reap. "This hotel should move Phnom Penh from maybe-visit to must-visit for upscale travellers who've wondered whether it's possible to be catered to appropriately beyond Siem Reap."

Eighty percent of the hotels' rooms boast views of both the Bassac and the Mekong River. The hotel's cityside front nestles against Phnom Penh's charming old French quarter, itself in the midst of a district-wide residential makeover. Within walking distance is the Royal Palace, the National Museum and Sisowath Quay, one of Southeast Asia's most accessible and attractive waterfront café scenes.

Accommodation ranges across seven classes, from 121 Superior rooms to 45 Luxury, 23 Junior Suites, 11 Prestige Suites and one Opera Suite. Wooden floors, glass-walled baths and classic appointments distinguish every option. More than 150 of the hotel's rooms overlook the Mekong.

Diners at the hotel can choose from a plethora of possibilities, spanning a range of culinary traditions and styles. La Coupole features Indochinese and French cuisines. Do Forni is Italian. Fu Lu Zu is the Chinese restaurant. Hachi offers up Old World Japan. And Chocolat is a Belgian patisserie.

A team of five internationally schooled chefs constitute a 'dream team' of culinary expertise, according to the hotel's food and beverage manager, Giuliano Callegaro. "To have eight new restaurants and bars open all at once in a city like this is something special," said Callegaro.

Estimates suggest that as many as 10,000 expatriates live in Phnom Penh. As many as 3,000 of these ex-pats are French, roughly the same number of expats who were living in Phnom Penh 40 years ago. But expats are by no means the greatest potential pool in the local market. The hotel reckons the total local market at 50,000 to 60,000 Cambodian nationals and expats alike.

In addition to leisure travellers, the hotel is also firmly focussed on attracting the regional market for conferences. The hotel's 1,800-square-meter ballroom anchors a facility that's equipped to produce sit-down dinners for 1,100 at a time. A grassy lawn by the pool can accommodate 2,000 in an outdoor setting. The hotel invested nearly USD 2 million in audio-visual technology alone.

And when the meetings are over, recreational opportunities extend from utter relaxation to utter exhaustion.

The hotel is the first location in Southeast Asia to deliver Sofitel's 'So Spa,' a new wellness concept that debuted in London last year. So Spa features French cosmetology, a menu that reads like a restaurant menu and a blending of private and public space. Five of the spa's 10 private treatment rooms are designed for involved Khmer and Thai treatments; the other five rooms, each an ample 30-square meters, are to be used for various beauty treatments.

In addition to two squash courts, the grounds feature four, floodlit tennis courts and two locales for workouts — So Fit, a haven for fitness and well-being exclusively for in-house guests, and the Phokeethra Sports Club, a sophisticated gym for guests and local members alike. Likewise, the hotel's two pools – one in the hotel building itself and the other in the adjacent sports complex — cater exclusively to guests and to both guests and members, respectively.

On the 12th floor, Club Millésime caters to the hotel's executive guests in the first purpose-built facility of its kind in the region. The lounge's stunning views of the city and the river, and a combination of outdoor space and sophisticated décor, elevate this meeting space to great new heights.

At present, Phnom Penh lacks a direct air connection to the major cities beyond Southeast Asia. In March, Air France will initiate Cambodia's first direct air link to Europe since 1974. For the hotel's general manager, this is but a beginning. He envisions a day in the next couple of years when all the charms of Cambodia will route through Phnom Penh.

"The city's ready," he said. "People are coming, for leisure and for meetings, and increasingly for a mixture of both. That's one of the most exciting new segments of the market, a traveller with intertwined intentions. This hotel was designed with exactly that traveller in mind."

Rates at the hotel start from AUD$162 per room per night. To book visit

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