One on One with Didier Lamoor, GM of new Sofitel in Cambodia

Why haven't any other five-star hotels opened in Phnom Penh in the past decade?
The region's booming, and yet Phnom Penh until now hasn't really been able to capitalize on the wider world's interest.
When talking about Cambodia, people immediately think of Angkor. And who can blame them? It is one of the world's marvels. For the past dozen years, so much of the interest in Cambodia, for both the leisure and the corporate traveler, has been on Angkor. There's been so much attraction to Siem Reap — gravitational attraction, inevitable attraction — that Phnom Penh has been left with the second fiddle. But the second fiddle is now asking the first violin for some time on the main stage.
Can this city support another five-star hotel?
The city already has two, as well as a fairly new 600-room hotel-casino. In 2004 / 2005, they were telling me it would be crazy to put up a hotel. The upscale hotels were losing money then. But by 2007/2008, everyone was saying, 'we're waiting for you. We need more rooms.'
Is this city ready for prime time?
The city is ready. But it's hard to communicate to the world that we are ready. Both private industry and government have to be pulling in the same direction, and with great vigor, to ensure that the world knows this.
How do you persuade corporate and leisure travelers that Phnom Penh should be a destination for these travelers?
This is the future of Cambodia. This city is emerging as Cambodia's hub, as a gateway to Angkor, yes, but also to Sihanoukville and the southern coast. Note that Thai Airways flies into Phnom Penh, not Siem Reap. If we want to develop the country as a real destination, we have to develop the south.  That's how Phnom Penh becomes a hub.
But that’s not the way the city is perceived now?
Correct. According to the official statistics, we had 471,283 arrivals to Phnom Penh in from January to October 2010, while there were 557,145 arrivals to Siem Reap. That doesn't suggest that the country yet revolves around a hub.
What is the next milestone you're looking out for in Cambodia’s redevelopment as a destination?
Easy. We need a long-haul flight into Phnom Penh from Europe, from the States and or from Australia. All of the planes coming in now are with regional carriers.
Air France?
Bien sur. Yes, we've just learned that Air France plans to fly direct to Phnom Penh from Paris three times per week, starting in March. This is big, even if there will be a connecting flight at Bangkok.
Tarmac to tarmac, France to Cambodia is too much to ask at present?
Apparently. But soon enough, we hope there will be cause. And we expect that this will begin with charters. We have 250,000 Franco Khmer coming in from Paris. They can fill a few planes.

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