Despite a shortage of skilled staff, the MICE business in Hanoi continues to grow as infrastructure developments keep pace while the city retains its ability to offer groups an experiential visit, writes Greg Lowe
Vietnam’s MICE industry has faced more than a few ups and downs over the past few years, but the sector in Hanoi continues to grow, especially for incentives, according to industry experts.
Infrastructure development and the opening of new meetings-focused hotels have improved the local hardware, while DMCs are focusing on localising experiences for clients, in line with the general trend across the trade.
“Hanoi is Vietnam’s heavyweight incentive destination,” said Hue Nguyen, business development leader at Diethelm Travel Vietnam. “Hanoi’s local authorities have worked hard to keep the momentum going, building efficient infrastructure and offering attractive investor benefits.”
Key developments which have increased the destination’s attractiveness for MICE clients and expanded local capacity for hosting events include last September’s opening of Vietnam’s second-tallest building, Lotte Center Hanoi – a 272m high integrated project comprising offices, serviced apartments, shopping centres and the five-star Lotte Hotel Hanoi – and JW Marriott Hanoi, which opened end-2013 and features 2,400m2 of meeting space on a single floor.
These advances have helped bolster Hanoi’s position as a MICE destination, and raised Vietnam’s profile at the same time. However, some challenges continue to dampen performance, said George Ehrlich Adam, general manager of EXO Vietnam.
“The new JW Marriott with 450 rooms and big meeting facilities adds points for Hanoi as a destination, benefiting the whole industry,” he said. “But it can be difficult to compete for major big conferences due to less flexible visa rules and lack of big commercial purpose-built conference centres compared to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore.”
Pieter De Weerd, area general manager for Accor Northern Vietnam, agreed that bidding for large-scale meetings is a crunch point for the local sector. Hanoi often loses out to other regional destinations for events with more than 1,000 delegates due to the relatively small number of hotels that can accommodate larger groups and other issues such as transportation. However, the destination is performing well for mid- to large-size groups.
He said: “Hanoi offers a nice package combining good hotel venues, unique culture and great food. And for incentives the proximity of Halong Bay is of course a big plus.
“Furthermore, I am convinced that once the new airport is fully in operation, the new bridge crossing the river open, the highways to the east fully deployed and the public transportation projects activated, Hanoi will have a large boost in the incentive market and events.”
Despite the challenges, the rich cultural heritage of the city and surrounding areas provide ample opportunities for creating experiential incentive itineraries. Diethelm’s Hue said immersive elements can include visiting local contemporary artists in their studios, tai-chi classes on the grounds of the Ly-dynasty Tao Sach Temple, bicycle tours of the capital’s backstreets or catching a performance at a water puppet theatre.
While DMCs are continually searching for new products to offer clients, repackaging existing offerings also proves affective, said Torsten Edens, managing director of Diethelm Travel Vietnam. “We are re-engineering most of our classics, “ he said. “It is not always about coming up with something different; most of the time it is about adjusting to what the markets require.”
The Press Club, itself a venue, has adjusted its offering to include off-site options such as hosting events in the 1,000-year-old Temple of Literature. In terms of trends, general manager Kurt Walter said group sizes have reduced slightly to 30-60 pax.
“There is strong demand for impeccable services and facilities from the finance and banking sector, from Germany, France, the US and Hong Kong,” said Walter. “Our customers are high-end.”
The Press Club will undergo a renovation to upgrade its facilities from May to September in order to better tap the high-spending segment.
While many people in the trade cite the skills shortage among local staff as a key challenge for the MICE sector, they remain confident Hanoi’s plus points outweigh this and other negative factors.
“Where there are challenges, there are also opportunities,” said Press Club’s Walter. “Hanoi provides an ideal destination for MICE events. It is the capital of Vietnam with over a thousand years of history, arts and culture. It is also close to other attractive destinations like the UNESCO site of Halong Bay, as well as Ninh Binh and Sapa. And, in general, there’s been a surge in five-star hotels which house state-of-the-art conference facilities.”
Vietnam’s second-tallest building, Lotte Center Hanoi
Post-incentive programme: A James Bond mission
In the early morning, join a private tai-chi master who will teach the art of tai-chi combat. Agents will be assessed for their ability and focus with each awarded a score.
After lunch, navigate through Hanoi’s labyrinth of 36 streets to collect clues to complete your team’s ‘undercover’ mission. Clues will eventually lead you to a secret meeting point, where you will receive the brief for the remaining mission of the day.
Accommodation will be at your selected hotel.
Journey to the sub-tropical islet hideaway (Halong Bay), once the lair of Dr No when he resided in Vietnam. Board your private boat. Special Agents will undergo water-based training and search for clues as to the current whereabouts of Professor Huy Nguyen No.
A black-tie dinner with entertainment will be taken in the very cave previously inhabited by Dr No.
Accommodation will be aboard Bhaya Classic Cruise.
To improve the martial arts skill, Special Agents can opt for more tai-chi practice on the sundeck before disembarkation at Tuan Chau pier and transfer to the airport for your next flight.
Itinerary provided by
Diethelm Travel Vietnam
Need to Know
Eat like a local
Experience the fabulous diversity of Hanoi’s vibrant culinary scene at ground level with Hanoi Street Food Tours, run by two local food enthusiasts and bloggers, Van Cong Tu and Mark Lowerson. The specialist operator takes groups along boulevards, down back-alleys and through markets. Tours take a couple of hours to a full day and the experience embraces the full range of food available, from pho noodles to French desserts.
Email to email@example.com or visit
Top of Hanoi Kitchen & Bar offers panoramic views of the city from its location on the 65th floor of Lotte Tower. The illuminated venue features a dining garden which serves contemporary brasserie-style cuisine. Guests can dine at tables or opt for cocktails in comfy sofas.
Call (84-4) 3333-1000 or visit www.lottehotels.com
Lotte Hotel Hanoi
Having opened last September, the five-star hotel in the city’s tallest building added 235 rooms and 83 suites to Hanoi’s supply. It features four restaurants, two bars, a bakery, gym and spa, and more than 1,200m2 of meeting space. Groups can utilise two meeting rooms and a ballroom which have a combined seated capacity of 1,200 people.
Call (84-4) 3333-1000 or visit www.lottehotels.com