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Sofitel joins Siem Reap hotel stampede

Sofitel joins Siem Reap hotel stampede

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The new $20 million, 175-room Sofitel Royal Angkor hotel in Siem Reap

IS the much anticipated tourist boom finally under way in Siem Reap? The owners of

the new $20 million, 175-room Sofitel Royal Angkor are betting on it.

The opening of the hotel in early October creates competition for the first time

in the ultra-luxury market in previously sleepy Siem Reap. And though the hotel's

construction and opening was delayed for 18 months by a combination punch of the

Asian financial crisis and the 1997 political violence in Cambodia, the hotel's Thai

owners are confident about the hotel's potential.

Supachai Verapuchong, 38, whose family also owns the Royal Phnom Penh, said despite

the delays he was always confident about the future of Angkor Wat tourism. If Road

6 from Siem Reap to the border of Thailand is repaired, the demand from Thais who

want to come to the temples will be huge, he said.

Managed by Sofitel, a division of Accor of France, the Sofitel Royal Angkor is depending

on a resort-style facility in the near-shadow of Angkor Wat as the route to financial

success.

Located along the road leading from Siem Reap town to the Angkor Wat complex, the

Sofitel Royal Angkor has 175 rooms and suites, a free-form swimming pool and a spa

which offers massage and facial and body treatments for the temple-weary traveller.

Room rates range from the luxurious $1,500 Thubtim Siam Suite to the more affordable

high season double room rate of $320, including breakfast and dinner.

Jurgen Christensen, the hotel's Director of Sales and Marketing, said in the off-season

the hotel will compete for tourists with the Grand, the historic hotel restored by

Raffles of Singapore in 1997.

But the huge demand in the high-end market from November till March will leave more

than enough business for both hotels, Christensen predicted.

The Sofitel Royal Angkor is hoping for a sizable share of the top-end portion of

the 180,000 tourists expected to arrive in Siem Reap this year, an increase of 8.5

percent over last year.

The future looks even brighter, with tourist arrivals projected by the Ministry of

Tourism to rise 40 percent each year, starting in 2001.

Philippe Bissig, the hotel's General Manager, told the Post the current length of

the average tourist stay in Siem Reap is now 2.5 nights. But he said it could increase

once Silk Air begins twice-weekly flights from Singapore this month because those

tourists will be staying three or four nights.

If Dragon Air gets its direct flights as it hopes next year, many more tourists will

be arriving from Hong Kong.

Supachai's family investment of $20 million in the Sofitel Royal Angkor is only the

latest addition to the family's Cambodian investment porfolio, which includes $10

million stakes in both the Royal Phnom Penh hotel and Channel 5 TV in Phnom Penh.

Supachai said his family expects profitability at the Sofitel Royal Angkor in six

years, but also said it was difficult to make such projections when the Royal Phnom

Penh is still losing money after seven years in operation.

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