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The One Hotel in Siem Reap is certainly something of an oddity. In a town with a great number of sprawling four and five-star complexes, stumbling across a hotel with just one room, albeit it a lavish and multi-levelled room, is something of a surprise.

And while the little hotel is not exactly a raging revenue-raiser, it’s attracted a huge amount of international publicity, which the owner, Martin Dishman, has spun off into his other projects.

The American said opening a one-room hotel was “genius by default”. The idea hit Dishman in mid-2005 when he leased a small, two-storey building in Siem Reap’s latest hot spot, The Passage, then a mainly residential street. He figured that developing the entire building would be too expensive, and a no-expense-spared one-room hotel would be the way to go.

“It was a completely unplanned idea and the best part about it is, if I had opened two or three rooms here, we would have probably got 90 percent less press than we did with one room,” said Dishman.

Last year, two years after opening the One Hotel in February 2006, Dishman decided to “piggy-back” on the publicity he’d received from his unique hostelry to extend his business and open Be Hotel, with more rooms – three, to be exact. Now, Dishman wants to expand his empire throughout the region.

“I want to try to do something outside the country, maybe in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam or even Bali because I’m proud of what I’ve done. It’s kind of the American way: to expand and conquer and colonise.”

Dishman worked for almost 20 years for the Intercontinental Hotels Group, which owns The Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza franchises among others, and became a general manager at age 33. Despite some perks of the job, such as meeting visiting dignitaries, including Watergate-scooping journalist Bob Woodward, Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi, and the Singaporean PM Goh Chok Tong, Dishman was ready for a new challenge.

When his request for a transfer to an Asian hotel went unfulfilled, he bit the bullet and came to the region without a job.

After stints in a hotel in Phuket and an office in Bangkok, he arrived in Siem Reap in January 2004 as general manager of the Shinta Mani hotel. After a year there, Dishman opened Siem Reap’s first gay bar, Linga Bar in The Passage behind Pub Street, and when a property became available across the alleyway, he decided to create his own hotel.

He developed the property, designed the room and created his very own masterpiece, with an accent on “genuine hospitality”. The project had a profound effect on Dishman, who insists he is delighted to be free of the shackles of corporate life.

“Working in American corporations can be good, but they can chew you up and spit you out too. As soon as you’re gone, there’s someone else to take your place and there’s no legacy to speak of – so this hotel may be something of a legacy.

“I was free to create something that I thought was pretty unique and a lot of fun. At the beginning I went to the airport and met every guest. It was fantastic. If you’re really into hospitality, that’s what it’s all about.”
___________________________________
The One Hotel costs $250 per night for single
or double occupancy, with a special pre-paid
internet rate of $195
if you book online at
www.theonehotelangkor.com.

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