Nha Trang back in the game

The coastal resort destination of Nha Trang, Vietnam has a ready  stock of leisure products to charm incentive clients with Picture by dima266f/123RF.com

Popular for years with the leisure travel market, Nha Trang is now eager to score again on the incentives front. By Greg Lowe

Tourism operators in Nha Trang are increasingly focusing on incentives to drive performance in a market where leisure travel has overshadowed MICE in recent years.

Vietnam-based travel consultants say while Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City remain the preferred choice for meetings and conferences, an increasing number of clients are requesting standalone or post-event incentives in the area surrounding the world-famous bay on the coast of the South China Sea.

Many expect the destination’s popularity to continue to rise in the coming years. However, Andy Carroll, global head of sales and marketing at Exotic Voyages, said maximising Nha Trang’s MICE potential would require a concerted effort from local authorities and the private sector to sustainably develop infrastructure and content.

“Nha Trang has been one of Vietnam’s most popular MICE destinations for the last decade,” he said. “With the resources and infrastructure it possesses right now, it will definitely continue to be a leading destination. However, visitors are seeking more activities at a given destination. Nha Trang should address that need in the near future.”

Both the local MICE and leisure markets have benefited in recent years from direct and charter flights from South Korea and Russia. DMCs told TTGmice another more recent trend had been the rise in trade from Europe, especially the UK and France. Furthermore, while the city, like many other regional destinations, has suffered from a downturn in Russian arrivals resulting from the recent collapse of the rouble, this has forced businesses that were previously leisure-focused to look more to the MICE sector.

“Nha Trang’s MICE business is recovering after falling asleep for some time to the benefit of leisure travel,” said Lise Papay Jurgens, MICE project manager at EXO Travel Vietnam. “Nha Trang has suffered from the fall of the rouble and it has had to open its doors to MICE (as a result).”

Most incentive itineraries piggyback the area’s leisure products, including cruises of the bay and its 200-odd islands, watersports, beach activities and spas, as well as cultural tours and more recently shopping.

While EXO currently gets requests for incentives from around the world, Papay Jurgens said domestic and Asian groups coming to Nha Trang favour teambuilding and activity-based itineraries.

“Nha Trang offers a good compromise between hitting the beach and group activities,” she remarked. “It’s a good mix for recharging and motivating staff and boosting sales.”

According to Nguyen Thi Hue, business development leader at Diethelm Travel Vietnam, the destination has seven five-star hotels with 1,421 rooms, five four-star hotels with 1,026 rooms, more than 90 quality travel operators along with high-grade attractions and integrated resorts including Vinpearl Land, Diamond Bay, MerPerle and i-Resort Nha Trang. Vinpearl Resort Nha Trang and Sheraton Resort & Spa Nha Trang have the most developed meeting facilities, with a combined event space of more than 10,000m2.

“Beautiful beaches and a temperate climate together with the local culture, historic sites and attractions have boosted Nha Trang as a great sightseeing and shopping destination,” Nguyen said. “With local private and government efforts, it should emerge as a prominent MICE destination.”

Currently, groups range from about 30 to 100 pax, with some hitting the 200-mark, according to travel consultants, though the destination has the capacity to handle larger events.

Major wins by Nha Trang over the past decade include the 22nd APEC Ministerial Meeting, 14th ASEAN Finance Ministers Meeting, Vietnamese Cultural Diplomacy Workshop and a number of other regional and international events.

While group size is decreasing, Carroll believes the downside of this trend can be easily offset by diversifying and upgrading tourism products.

“As a result, travellers will be likely to stay longer and spend more on their trip. Beach activities along with the collection of high-end resorts must be the core element for MICE tourism in Nha Trang because that’s what travellers come here for. Other things such as historic sites, shopping and nightlife will only add value,” he pointed out.

Ideas – Mixing culture and sports in Nha Trang

Day 1

After breakfast visit Long Son pagoda, the most important pagoda in Nha Trang. Located on a hill overlooking the city, it houses a 24m Buddha image.

The group will then take a short drive to Po Nagar Cham Tower, an impressive Cham dynasty complex which dates back to around AD780. The north tower is pretty much intact while the other three are in ruins. The complex also has two temples and a 1.2m statue of the goddess Yan Po Nagar.

Next, be driven to i-resort Nha Trang in Thap Ba for lunch followed by an afternoon of spa treatments and traditional mud baths at the resort.

Dinner will be served at Ana Beach House followed by a private party at the beachfront restaurant and bar.

 Day 2

Po Nagar Cham Tower Picture by luckybai2009/123RF.com

Start a day of raft building and racing at 08.00. Teams are taken to a nearby beach where, after being briefed, they must collaborate to build rafts from plastic drums and bamboo. Points will be awarded from speed, cooperation, build quality and sea worthiness.

A barbeque of freshly caught local fish will be served with a range of Vietnamese dishes on the beach.

After lunch teams will race to capture inflated balls in the water. They can play pirate and try to sink their competitors as a way to level the playing field.

A rest at the hotel will follow before the group ends the day with dinner at Truc Linh restaurant, which specialises in local seafood.

 Day 3

In the morning
catch the cable car across the bay to Vinpearl Land, an island integrated resort complete with a water park, amusement parks, bowling alleys and ice rinks. There’s plenty to do at the 200,000m2 attraction.

Need to Know

Cruise in style

Huong Hai Ha Long recently launched Emperor Cruises, a new luxury service offering cruises of Nha Trang Bay and the surrounding area. The company operates a fleet of ten 58m vessels with eight cabins and a maximum capacity of 24 guests.

Day, evening, overnight and custom cruises are available on the boats which feature a restaurant, bar, spa and all-suite accommodation with balconies.

Visit www.emperorcruises.com for more information.

Add flavour to your event with local festivals

Festivals offer one of the most enjoyable ways for groups to immerse themselves in the local culture. Tet Nguyen Dan, or Vietnamese New Year, which is celebrated on the first day of the first lunar month of the year, is one of the biggest national festivals. Nha Trang is also home to a number of provincial and local events, such as the Whale Festival which takes place at Ong Temple in the third lunar month, Po Nagar Festival in April, and Am Chua Festival in May.

Evason Ana Mandara debuts a new dining experience

The new Ana Beach House at Evason Ana Mandara serves local seafood and Vietnamese cuisine in a relaxing and informal setting.

Perfect for corporate gatherings, the beachfront restaurant features five dining areas – a lounge, a cocktail bar, an open sandy beach complete with lounge beds, and two poolside settings. It can easily accommodate groups of 100 pax.

New stay options in the city

Muong Thanh Nha Trang Centre Hotel

Nha Trang recently saw the opening of the five-star Muong Thanh Nha Trang Centre Hotel, located on Tran Phu street overlooking the bay. Along with 458 rooms, the property features six F&B outlets and four event venues, the largest of which can accommodate 1,000 people.

Other major developments include the January opening of Cam Ranh Riviera Beach Resort & Spa, which is about a 20 minute drive from the main town. The 70-room property boasts pool villas and a 200m stretch of private beach.

Dusit Thani will also be opening its first Vietnam property in the area as part of the Cam Ranh Flowers Resort. The 266-room beachfront hotel is scheduled to open next year and will also feature 173 residential units.

Walk this way

A new sea walking tour has piloted in Nha Trang through a joint venture between Holiday Diving Nha Trang and Thailand Holiday Diving. Clients don a special helmet complete with oxygen supply which enables them to walk along the seabed in Nha Trang Bay at a depth of five metres. Tours take about 15 minutes and enable groups to see local marine life up close. No diving experience necessary.

Top ways to bond

Top Team Vietnam offers a wide range of specialist teambuilding activities in and around the Nha Trang area. Clients can choose from a range of off-the-shelf products, including the Zombie Walk, where teams have to work their way through a challenging course while avoiding attacks from the “walking dead”, as well as other activities such as treasure hunts, beach boot camps and amazing races.

The company also offers a range of other MICE related services.

Visit www.topteam.co for details.

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