The Great Duke Phnom Penh, formerly the Intercontinental Hotel, announced on December 20 that it was shutting down for financial reasons, a year after a rebranding effort.
The hotel released a statement to its employees on December 20, accessed by VOA Khmer on Monday, that it was shutting down starting December 31, 2019, bringing to an end one of Phnom Penh’s oldest landmarks that opened more than two decades ago.
“Due to economic reasons, we regret to inform that the hotel will be closed with effective from 31 December 2019,” the statement reads.
The statement added that a law firm, HBS Law, would be in charge of handling settlements for outstanding benefits for employees. VOA Khmer visited the hotel on Monday, only to find it surrounded by blue fencing and security guards outside the two entrances to the property.
VOA Khmer could not contact Chakrapong Paladsongkram, general manager of The Great Duke Phnom Penh and signatory on the statement, on Monday.
Chea Bunthorn, a human resources manager at The Great Duke, declined to comment on the closure, only saying that the hotel would officially close from December 31, 2019.
Reports suggest that as many as 100 employees of the hotel are demanding outstanding salaries, creating discontent over payroll issues.
Touch Kosal, a union representative for The Great Duke staff, said around 150 hotel workers have been protesting since July against the hotel’s inability to make seniority payments, or even to pay salaries.
“If there is no action, there is no solution and the lawyers would not meet with their union representative, they will complain to the ministry or the Cabinet of the Prime Minister,” Kosal said.
Ly Tayseng, a managing partner at HBS Law, declined to comment, saying that it was wrong for lawyers to speak to the media.
Touch Kosal added that once the Intercontinental was changed to a more local brand, the management also increased the room rates, in what he called, an unimaginable decision.
"When the Intercon brand was changed from the international brand to the local brand, the price of the rooms was doubled,” he said.
The hotel was rebranded in 2018, with the management changing the name to Great Duke Phnom Penh, but saying that other aspects of the hotel would remain the same.
In Sovannara, a 47-year-old hotel worker at Great Duke, said ever since the rebranding the hotel had seen a significant decline in the number of room bookings. The hotel worker has been working at the hotel for nearly 23 years.
Ministry of Tourism spokesperson Top Sopheak said that the ministry had not been informed about the closure. But he added that similar closures had occurred in Siem Reap, when tourist numbers were low, and that there were other five-star hotels in Phnom Penh.
"It can be competition or sometimes the hotel owner has a problem, especially related to the investment,” he said. “It is normal. But in terms of tourism development or [number of] hotels, we don’t have any problems.”