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Boutique hotels on the rise

121113_09
Overlooking the pool at the newly opened OC Hotel in Sihanoukville. The hotel is a joint venture between Cambodian-owned VLK Royal Tourism and an unnamed Thai partner. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Local company VLK Royal Tourism Group has embarked on a joint venture with a Thai partner to build OC Hotel, a four-star boutique hotel in Sihanoukville. The venture was prompted by rising demand as well as increasing tourist numbers to the coastal area off the back of its listing on the Paris-based Most Beautiful Bays Club last year.

Chairman of VLK Lav Heng declined to disclose capital investment details or the name of the Thai partners, but did say during the hotel’s soft opening that the company undertook many years of market research on the potential for hotels of this kind in the area in addition to overseas market research to gauge demand among prospective travelers.

“We have not finished our development as the market demand is still huge. Our investment will be in proportion to market demand. If it becomes bigger, we will spend more. We’re trying to provide a four- or five-star service,” he said.

According to Lav Heng, the hotel was built in the hopes of elevating Cambodia’s accommodation options to be comparable to those of neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, and so and joint venture was ideal for this.

Amornarat Kongsaway, representative for the Thai partner in the joint venture, said her investment was certainly to cater to the increasing demand for boutique hotels. “We travel overseas a lot and we know the trends and what customers are looking for is something different,” she said. “That’s why we set up this boutique hotel. Customers want hotels that are unique, small and personalised. That’s our market focus,” she added.

According to Amornarat, social media will be the key to convincing prospective customers of the high standard of hotels in Cambodia.

“We have a lot of experience in this area … this is a good chance for Cambodia to show overseas tourists that Cambodia also has good standard hotels that can accommodate them,” said Amornarat.

Ho Vandy, president of World Express Tour and the co-chair of the private sector working group, applauded any investment into new hotels in coastal areas, particularly boutique hotels. He said Sihanoukville has about 50 hotels with more than 2,000 rooms which are modern but not boutique with some being quite dated in their design. Guesthouses add another 2,000 rooms to the province’s total.

“Despite having around 5,000 rooms, it does not cater to the increasing demand during public holidays or the high tourism season. Currently, the province can only cater to demand during normal periods, not special occasions, we are always facing this problem,” he said.

Ho Vandy attributed the rising popularity of the area to its listing last year on the Most Beautiful Bays Club. “The number of tourists are increasing in the coastal area since we became a member of The Most Beautiful Bay Club,” he said. “This development is a direct response to the increasing demand from both domestic and foreign tourists.”

The Ministry of Tourism’s figures show the number of international tourists in the Kingdom saw an increase of 23.6 per cent during the first nine months of the year. During this period, coastal areas saw an increase of 50.3 per cent, or 206,129 visitors.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at kunmakara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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