By Dennis Gordienko, General Manager of FCC Angkor, Avani Hotels & Resorts
Today’s travelers from all walks of life have caught the experience bug. They prefer cultural immersion, experiential travel and a sense of escaping everyday reality. A study done by Deloitte found that 66% of polled millennials valued exclusive experiences while 50% of travelers in other age group indicated the same. These trends have trickled over to the hospitality industry; long gone are the days of a hotel being just a room to sleep in. Travelers want unique accommodation experiences, especially those that open them up to new perspectives on the world.
When it came time last year to renovate FCC Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia, hotel management, architects and designers sat down to tackle what they saw as a huge opportunity ahead. The vision was for travelers to feel like they are entering a contemporary space filled with modern luxuries, but at the same time can disconnect to tap into the culture and heritage of Siem Reap.
Revamping the hotel to meet the demands of modern, experiential travelers while maintaining its beloved heritage feel required selectivity and careful attention paid to architecture and the property itself.
One of the biggest challenges of renovation is in the planning process. What stays? The team decided on conserving the historical part of the building that houses a unique Art Deco style, perfectly reinforcing the vision from the original architect Gary Fell, who effortlessly blended tropical modernity with its French colonial history. A defining feature of the main residence area and a reflection of the architectural movement in Cambodia that came after the early 20th century. At the heart of FCC Angkor stands The Mansion, which served as the summer residence of the French governor back when Cambodia was a French protectorate. This building oozes Colonial charm and displays the famous French Colonial style that encompasses a number of residences and buildings around the city.
A New History Is Born
A main concern of adding contemporary architecture to FCC Angkor is ensuring it complements rather than intrudes on the building’s historic influences. Instead of a complete overhaul, the design called for a modernist version of the existing architecture while keeping some spaces untouched. To achieve this, architects replaced select walls with glass panels, which adds a deliberate contrast to the building’s historic parts. Some walls were knocked down altogether, creating a more open space and bringing the outdoors in. Wooden trims in a satin finish inserts touches of luxury to the design, while new contemporary lighting highlights both traditional and modern surfaces. The new design doesn’t overwhelm the original architecture; instead, it stays within scale.
When it came to the property itself, the team placed importance on enhancing the property without damaging nature. Greenery surrounding the hotel remains preserved. The hotel and its restaurants and bars are immersed in nature, leading to the tropical garden outside that is overlooked by ancient trees. The space overlooks the river and not separated from the city, giving travelers a deep sense of place and history. The new FCC Angkor remains truly a Siem Reap spot; a place merged with its destination.
The renovated FCC Angkor has taken a lesson from successful old-meets-new architectural renovations from around the world while applying its own ‘authentically Cambodia’ artefacts. After all, it’s this authenticity that today’s travelers crave.
Dennis is a passionate hotelier with international experience across Europe, the Middle East, Indian Ocean, and Asia. Dennis joins Avani Hotels & Resorts from Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul (YTL Hotels), Malaysia, where he held a General Manager position. Prior to Vistana he was at Gaya Island Resort (YTL Hotels & SLH) where he held his first General Manager role.
Dennis’ hospitality career started as a Food & Beverage intern in Antalya ,Turkey with Sheraton Hotels in 2003. Since then he has worked in London and also his native Ukraine within F&B and rooms departments with international brands such as Radisson, Intercontinental Hotel Group and Fairmont Hotels.
Dennis first joined Minor Hotels in 2015 as Cluster Resident Manager at Anantara Maldives, prior to this, he was Executive Assistant Manager leading the pre-opening of Amari Dhaka in Bangladesh.