Patrick Basset, AccorHotels’ COO for Upper Southeast and Northeast Asia talks to Khmer Times about the hospitality and hotel industry in Cambodia, including the recent expansion of his hotel group in the kingdom.
KT: AccorHotels is one of the best known hotel brands in the world. What’s driving your company to continue to expand its investment here? Why is the kingdom a good market?
Patrick Basset: We have been in Cambodia for more than 25 years. We know the country quite well. We’ve been looking for opportunities to expand here for many years, but we had to wait for the economic development of the country to catch up a little, to provide more opportunities, which is what is happening now for the last four or five years, especially in the hospitality industry. This is the reason why we have decided to expand our investment here.
KT: Does AccorHotels design, build and own its hotels, or are they run under management contracts?
Patrick Basset: We have a technical service department that works to develop the brand and to assist the owners in building the hotels. But we don’t actually have a construction department.
KT: How do you decide what hotels to work with? What are the deciding factors?
Patrick Basset: There are many factors, but location is definitely one of the main ones. Also, we try to concentrate on what will bring be the most revenue to our investors and partners.
KT: Currently, AccorHotels manages two hotels in Phnom Penh and another two in Siem Reap, under the Raffles and Sofitel brands. Are there plans to open other brands in the kingdom?
Patrick Basset: Yes, we have three new partners coming in. We will open two Novotel hotels, one in Sihanoukville, and one here in Phnom Penh, as well as an Ibis Styles in Siem Reap. Right now, we are really focusing on Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, the cities that we consider offer the best conditions for our investment. But we have plans to eventually expand to other locations in the south of the country, where we think there are great opportunities in the tourism sector.
KT: Cambodia already has a lot of renowned international hotel brands. What is your strategy to thrive in such a competitive market?
Patrick Basset: Our distribution system is key – we rely on our online booking engine, as well as on regional marketing and promotion. Because of our expenditure on marketing, our hotels are already well known in the region, so customers will specifically look for us when they need to travel to, for example, Phnom Penh.
KT: The government recently acknowledged that it is aiming to attract two million tourists to the kingdom by the year 2020? What are your thoughts on this?
Patrick Basset: Chinese tourists are the biggest market anywhere in Asia today. They are one of the biggest travellers in the world. So I definitely think the government is doing the right thing by focusing on increasing its share of this massive market. Their policy will have a positive impact in the industry.
KT: There is a shortage of skilled labour in the hospitality industry. What can be done to curb this situation?
Patrick Basset: AccorHotels was one of the first companies in the world to establish a training academy for the tourism sector, which was built in Paris. Now, we have training centres in every region where we operate. There is one in Bangkok staffed by experts from around the world. We are very much focused on this, as we believe it is our duty as part of our operations in the region. We encourage the government to continue investing in vocational centres that provide the skills people need to thrive at their jobs.
KT: What’s in store for Cambodia’s hospitality industry? How will the market develop in the near future?
Patrick Basset: Competition is getting fiercer. For many years, we were pretty much alone, but now there are many international operators developing and building hotels in Cambodia. Tourism, both local an international, continues to grow, and I hope this trend will continue well into the future.