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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sokha Hotel aims for October

Construction workers travel past the Sokha Hotel construction site in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district
Construction workers travel past the Sokha Hotel construction site in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district on Monday. Vireak Mai

Sokha Hotel aims for October

The opening date for the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh has been pushed back yet again, the company confirmed yesterday.

Svey Vuthy, chief legal and corporate affairs officer of Sokimex, parent firm of the Sokha chain, said the company is now aiming for a soft opening of the $100 million hotel for October, with a grand opening not expected until mid-2015.

The completion date of the riverside hotel, located in Chroy Changvar district, was initially slated for the beginning of 2012, about three years after construction started.

Vuthy said he is pressuring contractors to quicken the pace in an effort to meet the new timeline. Structural engineer for Sokha Hotel Phnom Penh, Phan Chi Thiet, said despite rumours suggesting that construction on the site had halted, work was running “as normal”, except for some not-so-hurried contractors.

“We are pressuring contractors to increase their work and supply more staff for the construction,” Thiet said.

“Everything is at a rush now as we hurry to fit the electric, plumbing and air-conditioning network.”

Meanwhile, Vuthy also confirmed the company was considering opening a gaming operation on the hotel site as well as extending the hotel beyond 16 storeys to up to 30 storeys.

Asked if the gaming operation meant that there would be a casino on the 14-hectare site opposite the Royal Palace, Vuthy said the ground floor was actually planned for “other entertainments”, without going into further detail.

“This project is focused on the hotel business,” Vuthy said, adding that the company had no license for a casino.

“If we can get the license in the future, we will consider.”

Sokha Hotel now runs gaming operations out of its Thansur Bokor Highland Resort in Kampot province.

New gaming plans may need to hold off for at least another 20 years, as NagaWorld, currently Phnom Penh’s only casino operator, holds a near-monopoly status in Phnom Penh until 2035.

The agreement bans any other gaming businesses from opening up within a 200-kilometre radius of NagaWorld’s Phnom Penh casino.

Chrun Theravath, chief of casino management at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said he had not received any information about Sokha Hotel’s gaming ambitions or even met with the company.

“We allowed only NagaWorld. However, if there is any decision from the government, we as the technical team will follow up and work it out,” he said.

More than 1,000 labourers are now working on the site. During a visit on Monday, cranes were hoisting pallet-loads of cement to the roof, and construction workers were busy hammering in nails, fitting in large windows and finishing opulent steel structures in the lobby.

Stefan Willimann, the soon-to-be hotel’s general manager, said he is confident there will be an opening by the third quarter of this year.

How big the opening is remains in question, Willimann said.

Key features of the future hotel include a 2,400-person capacity ballroom, 525 hotel rooms, 193 apartments that will be leased out for longer periods of time, more than 1,000 car parking spaces, a karaoke bar, a gym, a nightclub, restaurants and retail outlets.

The hotel will operate a ferry from behind the Cambodiana Hotel on mainland Phnom Penh to Chroy Changvar so as to avoid traffic congestion.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAY KUNMAKARA

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