The vast unfinished grey bulk of Phnom Penh’s Sokha Hotel and Convention Centre will be with us until late 2014, the company told Post Property, after it was decided to tie the building’s completion to the opening of the second Chroy Changva Bridge.
The company also told Post Property that the complexion of the project has been changed, with the number of planned hotel rooms dropping from 798 to 458, and the remainder of the space being repurposed as 160 condos.
The building, which was originally supposed to be completed in 2012, has appeared eerily quiet to watchers from the other side of the river in recent months. But when Post Property toured the site, there were several hundred workers busy on the site, installing air conditioning ducting and digging car parks.
The second Chroy Changvar bridge is expected to be completed in late 2014, but Phnom Penh officials were unable to provide a firm date.
The 14-hectare hotel project includes hotel rooms and suites, an international convention centre, a spa, high-end condominiums, entertainment centres, shopping centres, restaurants, a night market and a club house.
Svay Vuthy, chief corporate affairs officer of parent company Sokimex said “We had planned to complete the hotel in 2012, but due to the construction of the new bridge, so we cannot open until the bridge construction is complete.”
When asked why they had delayed the opening, Svay said “We are waiting because we are worried about traffic jams – when we open the hotel for business and take guest bookings, the traffic jams mean we cannot get guests to the hotel, which is a pro blem. In order to avoid this problem, we have to go slowly and wait for the bridge.”
Sok Chanthy, chief sales and marketing officer of Sokha Hotels stressed that guests’ comfort was the company’s priority. “If we build a 480 room hotel, then when it’s full that’ll be some 800 people, so there isn’t going to be good traffic flow, there’ll be a lot of complaints from the guests, and if we add in condos, some of them for the embassies, then they’ll be thinking about the traffic, wondering ‘Oh, how can I get back over there?’, and they can’t swim over there.”
There had been talk of a boat service crossing the river to the new hotel, and Sok confirmed that was still part of the company’s thinking. “Boats? That’s in the plan. At the Sokha Beach Resort [in Sihanoukville] we have a partner there, Sea Cambodia, which is actually a very well-known high-quality boat services company, and they’re very experienced, and we’re going to be doing ferries with them and also we might have some cooperation with other companies to do boat services as well.”
Svay Vuthy was keen to dispel any misconceptions about the project, including a rumour that work had ceased because the building is falling down. “The building is not sinking in to the mud. Our designs and calculations involved building 45-metre deep foundations, which are strong enough to support up to 30 storeys. We’re building only 16 storeys. So there’s no problem there.”
Sok said that the company was not waiting for a casino licence before opening. “At this moment we don’t have a casino licence. If the government gave us one, then why not? But it’s not in our plans. We haven’t applied for a license. We haven’t really thought about it.”
Svay also said that Sokha Hotels could easily manage the costs of the delay in opening. “We are quite a strong company financially, and the expense isn’t too bad. Of course, we wanted to open this year, but the planning has been underway for a long time. We want to open, but it’s how to get there that is the difficulty.”
Asked about the decision to turn more of the building into condominiums than was originally envisaged, Sok said it was simple. “We’ve found that there is a demand for rented condos. If you look at the BKK1 area, there is a lack of condominiums, and there are a lot of people who have asked Sokha: ‘Hey, why don’t you build some condos?’ They like our brand and they like our services, so why not, if we have the demand?”
And Svay was keen to stress that the project is still very much ongoing. “From a long way away, from the Phnom Penh side of the river, you can’t see much work. At the beginning there was a lot of activity, but after we completed up to the roof, now you can’t see the activity from the outside. Construction is still continuing. From the outside it looks almost complete, but now we are doing the interior work and decoration inside.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Rupert Winchester at [email protected]