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Boutique hotel wins big online

Shinta Mani Club’s pillared   facade fronts 39 rooms.
Shinta Mani Club’s pillared facade fronts 39 rooms. Photo Supplied

Boutique hotel wins big online

Shinta Mani Club credits its ‘emotional software’ with securing a third-place spot in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards

Siem Reap made a global splash last week when TripAdvisor announced the winners of its Travelers’ Choice Awards for 2015. Among them, Shinta Mani Club was named as the third best hotel in the world. Six other Siem Reap hotels nabbed top 25 spots in the small hotels category for the Asia region.

“You know, there are oceans and oceans of better hotels out there,” said Christian de Boer, Shinta Mani Club’s general manager, in an interview at Kroya, the boutique hotel’s contemporary Khmer restaurant. “Places that have better features than ours, better ‘hardware’. But I think we have better emotional ‘software’, and that is what people have responded to.”

The 44-year-old, who is Dutch, puts the hotel’s popularity down to its staffing policies.

“None of my staff is part-time, and none of them is seasonal. We never fire staff at the end of high season, and that gives them a lot of confidence and means they can focus on the wellbeing of our guests.”

Christian de Boer.
Christian de Boer. Photo Supplied

The results can be seen in Shinta Mani Club’s near-permanent poll position on TripAdvisor’s Siem Reap hotels listings.

De Boer took over as GM at Shinta Mani Club (formerly Shinta Mani) when it re-opened in 2012, following a refurbishment by owner-architect Bill Bensley. The white building, whose grand white columns and strong features give the visitor
every impression that they are stepping into a sanctified space, houses 39 rooms.

In 2013, the owners acquired the building opposite Shinta Mani, formerly the Day Hotel, in the middle of the leafy French Quarter, and an additional hotel, Shinta Mani Resort, was created. The 62-room boutique has been built in a more traditional, neo-French colonial style and opens out onto lush green gardens.

De Boer arrived in Siem Reap in 2007, when he worked as the sales director for the Hotel de la Paix, now the Park Hyatt. He established a reputation for innovative touches like his 3,000 goose-feather Christmas tree in 2011.

When the hotel closed in 2012, de Boer briefly worked for luxury island hideaway Song Saa.

Fellow hoteliers were quick to praise De Boer. “It couldn’t happen to a better person,” said Carla Petzold-Beck from Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor. “He is so passionate and lives Shinta Mani."

“And it’s a milestone for us in Siem Reap, too, because it confirms our place on the map.”

The hotel restaurant, Kroya, serves up contemporary Cambodian cuisine.
The hotel restaurant, Kroya, serves up contemporary Cambodian cuisine. Photo Supplied

Magnus Olovsson, of Heritage Suites Hotel, agreed. “He is first and foremost a public relations and marketing man, and I think the owners’ confidence in giving his skills a free rein has been well rewarded,” he said.

Industry insiders hope the publicity boost will spill over to Siem Reap and Cambodia as a whole as they struggle to sell the Kingdom as a unique destination, rather than an add-on.

“It seems to be set in stone among agents worldwide that Siem Reap is a three-day trip,” said Olovsson. “I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s too short.”

Carrol Sahaidak-Beaver, executive director of the Cambodia Hotels Association, agreed that it will help to build up confidence in Cambodia as a safe and attractive destination.

“I still meet prospective travellers who ask me if Cambodia is safe. We need to get the message out there that this is a safe, wonderful and diverse destination, and moments like this really help,” she said.

In the Asia regional rankings, several other hotels in Siem Reap were also recognised. Among them, the Privilege Floor at the Borei Angkor Hotel, Sojourn Boutique Villas, Journeys Within Boutique Hotel, Pavillon d’Orient Boutique Hotel, Diamond d’Angkor and Heritage Suites Hotel all appeared in the Top 25 Asia regional Small Hotels ranking, while Maison 557 was ranked number four in the Asia regional listing for B&Bs and Inns.

Siem Reap was number nine on the Destinations listing, sharing top-10 company with cities such as London, Paris, Rome and Prague.

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