Finnish Hotel Owner Takes Over Sakura Hotel In Phnom Penh

After huge investments in Thailand, Finnish Jussi Ryhänen has taken the consequences of what he call “many and big problems” in Thailand and made his next investment in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh where the hotel bookings just keep increasing every year despite the financial crisis.
And its not just a hotel around the corner, Jussi Ryhänen decided to take over from the local owner who had been running the place for decades as a place with massage as its top attraction.

ScandAsia met the Finn and his new manager Heikki Ala- Kleme in the middle of the renovation of the hotel and its restaurant, opening soon. The air conditioned restaurant and the restaurant in front of the hotel will be used as a way to change the image of the hotel from a place where men go for the fun, to a more all-round hotel with good rooms, proper services, and an excellent restaurant.
“My hotels in Thailand, The River Hotel (known as Jussin Hotel) in Pattaya and Sofia Garden Resort on Koh Chang, are doing ok compared with the rest of the industry. But there are so many things going on in Thailand, and the tourist industry is suffering greatly. So I was looking for something else for my next investment,” Jussi Ryhänen says.
Some weeks ago he called a Finnish friend he knew from his time in the construction business in Germany, who had been living in Cambodia for several years. Namely Heikki Ala- Kleme, who has a past as an receptionist at Türku Hostel in Türku in Finland, and also had experiences as the owner of Bar Baari in Sihanoukville.

For more than 10 days the two experienced Finns travelled all over Cambodia to check all available hotels and guesthouses. And when it was time for a decision, there was no doubt in the Finnish investor’s mind. Sakura Hotel with 60 rooms running, and 10 more available for renovation, a massage business, and the possibilities for making an outdoor restaurant, and renovate the air conditioned restaurant. It was just to get the deal with the Cambodian owner done as soon as possible.
“I really believe in this place. There is a lot to be done to guide guests to Sakura Hotel, but for sure Cambodia is the future. The numbers of arrivals are going up every month, and despite we have been working more with the renovation than the commercial part of the business, we can already see changes in the patterns of our guests”, the Finnish hotelier says, and continues:
“When we took over, we had 50 % foreign guests and 50% local guests. Many of the restaurant’s guests have been costumers at Sakura Hotel for one or two decades, and they will still be more than welcome. But in my hotels in Thailand, we have regular costumers from several countries, and I am sure it will be the same here at Sakura”.

Jussi acknowledges that the massage is a part of the business called Sakura Hotel.
“We are here to run a hotel as well as we can. But we will keep the massage as a service, and later on the hotel and the massage will be separated. Our plan is to move the massage to an attached villa as soon as possible, Jussi Ryhänen explains.
The Sakura Hotels manager, Heikki Ala- Kleme, who got a phone call from Jussi Ryhänen just at the time when he had prepared him self to leave his wife and small son in Phnom Penh, to start another season with his Bar Baari on Victory Hill in Sihanoukville, is a happy man right now. His bar is rented out to three English guys, who is going to re-open under a new name.
“I have a son, Tapio. Today he is 17 months and 23 days. Running a bar until far too late every night is not that pleasant for me, my wife or my son, so the call from Jussi came at the right time. It was very exciting to guide Jussi around, looking for the right hotel or guesthouse. And I am only happy that we ended up with a hotel in Phnom Penh, a town I love very well,” Heikki says. And he is smiling when asked about where he met Jussi.
“I have been working with construction in Scandinavia and in Germany. It was there, I worked for Jussi. I wonder how he got my number, but it’s not really important now. What matters is that I can share this fantastic challenge to get Sakura Hotel up and running. It’s tough, I am working far too much, while my wife and son are in my wife’s village, but is a very interesting job”.

And while we have been talking, Heikki’s acting as an interpreter for his boss Jussi, three typical travellers arrived with all there stuff. Over the same period five single men arrived with absolutely no luggage. Typical massage costumers. At the top of that, Heikki received a booking with pick up in the airport. So maybe the old massage place already reacts to the new Finnish facelift.

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