Tranquillity sets in beyond the white gates leading to the hotel
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Nestled in the heart of Phnom Penh is a luxurious haven of tranquillity, just a few minutes off the busy Samdach Sothearos Boulevard. It is almost as if the hustle and bustle of the city fades into the background, as the majestic white gate to Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra begins.
It is hard to miss the 12-storey colonial-styled hotel, thanks to its location which is in close vicinity of a large scale shopping mall, government offices, embassies, major tourist attractions and the charming riverfront.
Luscious greens line up the paved road leading towards its entrance, where 401 staff, fondly dubbed as Sofitel ambassadors, await with a bright smile and a cheerful ‘bonjour’ – a tradition here since its inception in 2011.
Area general manager for Phokeethra Hotels, Charles-Henri Chevet tells Capital Cambodia that every element of the hotel has been carefully curated to cater to its clientele, currently dominated by businessmen, especially from the region.
“There are many ways to define luxury but two of them could be space and time, both of which we provide in abundance. Sitting on a seven hectare-plot of land, we have a large lobby, garden and facilities.
“This tells our guests that although the hotel may be busy, we have space for everybody.
“And with time, we understand the importance of being highly efficient with our services. We also understand city living, so we advice our guests on how to optimise their time during their stay here,” he explains.
The Sofitel team, led by Chevet, constantly strives to provide an exceptional and unique experience. This includes incorporating personal touches whenever the opportunity arises.
“The smallest things matter. Personally, I would try to greet each and every guest that walks through our door – not just the VIPs or dignitaries,” he says.
“We have also recently added microfibre cleaning cloth as a part of our grooming kits, after our housekeeping team noticed that some of our clients wear glasses and we did not have anything prepared to get them clean.”
When asked about the secret to running a tight ship, the French-born chuckles, “It’s walking. Walking everywhere and overseeing everything. Knowing your products by heart.”
Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra made its mark as one of the Kingdom’s finest when it came in second out of 25 best hotels of Southeast Asia in the 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards, organised by the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler publication.
The latest addition to the establishment is a newly-launched Cigar Chamber, located just left to the hotel’s grand lobby. A walk up the spiral staircase would reveal a wooden door with glass panels, where rows of the exquisite liquors sit in glass cases.
“We want to give the opportunity to our guests, especially the cigar and liquor aficionados, to smoke and drink in an exclusive area without creating disturbance. We have wide selections of cigar, ranging from $8 to $50 each, and Armagnac, some of which are older than both you and I,” he says.
The hotel also takes pride in the multitudes of gastronomical opportunities. Guests can choose from an array of international dishes, from fresh seafood prepared à la minute at French restaurant La Coupole to authentic Sichuan cuisine at its Chinese restaurant, Lu Fu Zu, a lavish sushi spread at its Japanese restaurant Hachi, and the classic Italian fine-dining experience at Do Forni.
This year is set to be one of the most challenging years for the Sofitel team, as evident in the various plans underway in constant efforts to provide their guests with only the crème de la crème.
Chevet says these include turning the former executive lounge, on its top floor, into a private event area, revamping the interiors of the rooms, maintaining and changing the ballroom carpets, and refurbishing La Coupole to ensure faster food preparation.
“One of the things that we are most excited about is the reopening of our arts gallery. Every three months we will have new artists, either Cambodians or expats residing here, to showcase their works,” he says. The venture is in the pipeline.
Sofitel will also receive its new fleet of BMWs in June, customised to boast the hotel’s signature colour, ‘the macassar’, which is rich, dark brown with lighter streaks that mimic a wooden appearance. CapCam
Anith Adilah Othman
Contributer Writer, Capital Cambodia