THE GRANDES DAMES OF CAMBODIA SET TO HAVE A FACELIFT

Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Pnom Penh and the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor may be historic marvels, but they’re soon to get a makeover

Born into a family of hospitality professionals in Switzerland, hotelier Oliver Dudler worked for many years in Food & Beverage before moving into hotel management. His previous position was at Raffles Fairmont in Manila. He is now the Cluster General Manager of Raffles Cambodia, responsible for Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh, as well as Siem Reap’s Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor. We asked him to tell us a little more about the two properties.

I am a very lucky man. I am entrusted with looking after two of Cambodia’s most beautiful hotels, two “grande dames”, built by the French in 1929 and 1930, respectively. “Le Royal“ will turn 90 next year, so this is an exciting time for us. As you have probably seen in the media, the properties now have new ownership. With this comes new investment and both hotels will undergo extensive restoration. Raffles Cambodia have the same owner as the famed Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, so there is a lot of synergy.

THE PROPERTIES NOW HAVE NEW OWNERSHIP. WITH THIS COMES NEW INVESTMENT AND BOTH HOTELS WILL UNDERGO EXTENSIVE RESTORATION.

Tell us a little more about the history…

In the early 1990s, after the Paris Peace Agreement was signed ending the civil war, HM King Sihanouk returned from exile. Being familiar with the restoration work that had been carried out at Raffles Hotel in Singapore, he asked if Raffles would be interested in acquiring Cambodia’s two heritage hotels. This was how, in 1997, “Le Royal“ and “Grand Hotel d’Angkor“ became the first Raffles hotels outside Singapore.

The Siem Reap property has an extraordinary story. If I was visiting the temples of Angkor today, I feel that I would want to stay in the same hotel where the first wave of travellers stayed in the 1930s, as the sites were first being excavated. The hotel has a historic connection with the French explorers who brought the majesty of Angkor to the attention of the western world. There are wonderful hotels in Siem Reap, but none have this kind of heritage.

What are the key differentiators of the hotels?

Raffles as a brand is not a “cookie cutter.” We are very much involved with the local culture. We have historians working with us and we have the privilege of having a Royal Princess on our team. We have a close relationship with the Royal Palace where the of cial opening was attended by HM Sisowath Monivong (reigned 1927-1941) and our doormen’s uniforms are the same as the Royal Guards at the palace. In Siem Reap, the hotel retains many of its original features, such as its timber elevator. It is also home to Cambodia’s most iconic swimming pools, modelled on the ancient royal bathing pools of Angkor. These historic references and experiences just cannot be had in a modern hotel.


Photo: Oliver Dudler, Cluster General Manager, Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, Siem Reap