Traditional Khmer music, Buddhist monks, Cambodia's deputy prime minister and apsaras will help announce the grand opening of one of Southeast Asia's most anticipated new hotels March 29 as the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra makes its debut.
The hotel takes the stage in Phnom Penh as the first new five-star hotel to open in the capital in more than a decade. Its eight restaurants and bars, expansive meetings facilities, spa, sports club and executive lounge herald an emergence of sorts for a city that's seen more stasis than dynamism in recent years.
That, says the hotel's General Manager Didier Lamoot, is about to change.
"We're on the cusp of something here," said Lamoot. "Not only with respect to Phnom Penh as a destination, but how people travel, why they travel and when. The lines are blurring between leisure and business travel, and this hotel was built to accommodate new demands by today's guests."
Located on the banks of a canal, with panoramic views of both the Mekong River and the Bassac, the Sofitel defies easy identification as one kind of hotel or another. Its 45-meter swimming pool, ample pool decks and ambitious So Spa, a wellness concept that debuted in London last year, tempt the resort-minded.
Meanwhile, the hotel’s executive quarters, Club Millésime, and its 1,800 square-meter ballroom are lures to corporate business. Indeed, the hotel was put to the test during the recent ASEAN Travel Forum during a sit-down dinner for 1,200.
"I'm not sure where else in Southeast Asia you can accommodate as many people," said Lamoot. "Though we only started receiving guests in the middle of December, we now know what it's like to be fully booked. And it feels good."
The USD 50 million hotel development is third in a group that includes the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra, where Lamoot served as general manager for five years, and the Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra. The Siem Reap (Angkor) property in particular has won international acclaim as one of the finest resorts in Southeast Asia.
The hotel's cityside front nestles against Phnom Penh's charming old French quarter, itself in the midst of a district-wide residential makeover. Within walking distance is the Royal Palace, the National Museum and Sisowath Quay, one of Southeast Asia's most accessible and attractive waterfront café scenes.
Accommodation ranges across seven classes, from 121 Superior rooms to 45 Luxury, 23 Junior Suites, 11 Prestige Suites and one Opera Suite. Wooden floors, glass-walled baths and classic appointments distinguish every option. More than 150 of the hotel's rooms overlook the Mekong.
In the hotel's majestic lobby, Le Bar whets the appetite for the myriad food and beverage opportunities beyond. The possibilities span a range of culinary traditions and styles. La Coupole features Indochinese and French cuisines. Do Forni is Italian. Fu Lu Zu is the Chinese restaurant. Hachi offers up Old World Japan. And Chocolat is a Belgian patisserie.
Show kitchens anchor several of the hotel's restaurants. Of course, the most dramatic shows at the Sofitel will take place in the hotel's ballroom, where a USD 2 million investment in audio-visual technology has equipped the facility for extravaganzas.
"Cabarets, orchestras, revues – we expect all manner of entertainment in this hotel," said Lamoot, the day after a command performance by a song-and-dance troupe from Pattaya, Thailand. "Next month, we'll host a wedding where the bride and groom drive right into the ballroom. We're set up to be that kind of a dramatic place."
In addition to celebrations, the hotel's recreational opportunities are munificent. The Phnom Penh property will serve as the first location in Southeast Asia to deliver Sofitel's So Spa, featuring French cosmetology, a restaurant-like menu of treatment options and a blending of private and public space. Five of the spa's 10 private treatment rooms are designed for involved Khmer and Thai treatments; the other five rooms, each an ample 30-square meters, are to be used for various beauty treatments.
In addition to two squash courts, the grounds feature four, floodlit tennis courts and two locales for workouts. So Fit is a haven for fitness and well-being exclusively for in-house guests. The Phokeethra Sports Club is a sophisticated gym for guests and local members alike. Likewise, the hotel's two pools - one in the hotel building itself and the other in the adjacent sports complex - cater exclusively to guests and to both guests and members, respectively.
On the 12th floor, Club Millésime caters to the hotel's executive guests in the first purpose-built facility of its kind in the region. The lounge's stunning views of the city and the river, and a combination of outdoor space and sophisticated décor, elevate this meeting space to great new heights.