Man about town: 20 September 2013

Man about town: 20 September 2013

The turbulent history of the upscale Sothea boutique hotel continues, with an announcement this week that the majority ownership of the establishment has been flogged off in a juicy $6.4 million deal to Minor Hotel Group Ltd, a subsidiary of Thailand-listed Minor International Public Company Ltd.

The Thai company, which operates hotels under brand names including Anantara, Marriott and Four Season, bought an 80 per cent stake in Sothea, with the remaining 20 per cent retained by the Cambodian owner, who also owns the Angkor Century hotel.

The Sothea will be renamed as the Anantara Angkor Resort and Spa later this year.

The hotel opened in February 2009, and struggled to find its place in the tight luxury market. In February 2011 it was announced that Alila Hotels and Resorts, which manages boutique hotels and resorts in the Asia Pacific region, was to make its debut in Cambodia, taking over management of The Sothea in Siem Reap, which would be renamed as the Alila Sothea.

But in little over a year that deal was off, and the parting of the ways was obviously tinged with acrimony.

Alila announced on its website, “It is with much regret that Alila Sothea Siem Reap Cambodia will cease to be an Alila-managed hotel as of Sunday, 01 April 2012. It will revert to a local management team and rebranded as The Sothea.”

Guy Heywood, chief operating officer of Alila commented, "The agreement to end the contract follows irreconcilable differences over management issues. Alila Sothea was beginning to be a true success story under Alila management and was gaining much support from the travel trade. We deeply appreciate and thank our travel partners and do apologise to guests booked to stay at The Sothea.”

The ‘legend ‘of the hotel is that it’s a love story, given as a gift by the owner to his wife, Madam Sothea. But according to local chit chat, management of the hotel was far from a love story with the family very much hands on, and the owner’s daughter, fresh out of university in Australia, was nominally the manager.

Incidentally, the new deal marks Minor Hotel Group’s first foray into Siem Reap, indeed even into Cambodia. In November 1995 local media said that the company’s Four Season chain would be one of many hotel outfits to enter the Siem Reap market place, but that never eventuated.

Ronnie Yimsut’s five-year-long dream, the creation of the Bakong Technical College, is now, according to Ronnie, moving into its final stage, with major construction work “near completion.” The grand opening ceremony is set for November 25. Ronnie says people, “Are working very hard to put the final touch for our school program, including staffing needs, sustainability plan, and also the necessary tools and school equipment. Our classes, in five vocational and technical subject areas, which are being developed by our academic committee, are slated to start in early 2014.”

Park Hyatt kicks off its Masters of Food and Wine series tomorrow, with a “farm to table journey.” Guided by Cambodian chef Pisith, guests will start the day with a visit to the local market, followed by a visit to a traditional rice noodle makers village home , as well as a local num bahn chok shop, then to a Cambodian pottery centre.

The journey takes in beautiful Cambodian countryside while letting guests learn how to make the traditional and delicious noodle soup, num banh chok.
The afternoon will then end with a lunch at hotel’s aptly named Dining Room with chef Martin Robl.
Price is $100, and start time is 7.45am. For reservations, contact [email protected]


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