Reaching for the stars

Finer tourism infrastructure that have emerged are enabling Vietnam to capture the attention of more high-end business event planners.

Carp Dragon Statue and Dragon Bridge in Danang City, Vietnam

Vietnam’s tour operators and destinations in the country are now shifting their focus towards catering for the growing number of visitors from the high-end business events segment.

Carp Dragon Statue and Dragon Bridge in Danang City, Vietnam

Pham Ha, founder and CEO of Luxury Travel Vietnam, said that last year, his company welcomed 50 business event groups, with the average cost of a luxury outing ranging from US$2,500 to US$3,500 a day for a seven-day tour.

He predicts that the number of groups will rise this year and in the future, thanks to an increasing number of four- and five-star hotels with world-class conference facilities, opening. For this year, the company has received a “significant” increase in requests from the high-end business events segment, especially from India, America and Australia, for groups ranging from 50 to 300 people.

While the majority of corporate companies still head to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s central coast – Hue, Danang, Hoi An and Nha Trang – is gaining traction, with the country’s pristine beaches luring more visitors to its shores.

In 2016, the five-star InterContinental Nha Trang opened, bringing with it the town’s largest pillarless grand ballroom, and a separate check-in lounge for large event groups.

In 1Q2017, the hotel’s business events market represented 20 per cent of its total revenue, with the largest inbound market coming from China, as well as domestic guests. This was followed by South Korea, Japan, Russia, the UK and other European countries.

The hotel’s marketing and communications manager, Tran Thuy Thanh Truc, opined: “Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing MICE destinations and has been recognised as an important hub for luxury MICE.

“In the last few years, Vietnam has witnessed the mushrooming of four- and five-star hotels from popular international brands and well-known local brands across the country. With this in mind, Vietnam is promoting itself as a true luxury MICE tiger of South-east Asia.”

She added that interest for Danang and Nha Trang are rising, and both destinations were selected, among others, to host meetings related to the APEC Viet Nam 2017, welcoming delegates from across the globe.

Bleisure travel is another trend InterContinental Nha Trang is seeing an increase of, with many planners blending business trips with leisure add-ons.

Tran said: “Many of our business guests want to understand more about the destination they are visiting and experience life beyond the meeting room. Some of our guests even bring their family with them to replicate life at home, but under the auspices of ultimate luxury.”

Vietnam’s largest island of Phu Quoc is also proving popular with high-end business event travellers wanting to combine business with leisure. This has led to more domestic flights connecting the island with Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Since its opening in January 2016, Novotel Phu Quoc has seen demand grow steadily.

Georgina Otter, director of business development of the hotel, said: “We have seen a strong growth in the number of events requesting our premium packages and customised menus, which feature an abundance of local seafood – considered a real luxury in Vietnam.

“Customers are now choosing luxury locations and event packages, not just to impress their external clients or potential buyers, but more companies now see the importance of impressing and spoiling their employees to encourage performance and retention,” she added.
Despite this, growth challenges remain, with the main issue being the lack of qualified manpower.

“Service is the biggest challenge in Vietnam’s luxury MICE market,” remarked Hoang Minh Ngoc, Saigon office manager at Indochina Charm Travel.

“When people don’t have a good service mind, they are unable to bring the best value of real products to end-users. The market needs more people who have a deep understanding of the needs of today’s clients,” Hoang pointed out.

As well, Luxury Travel Vietnam’s Pham added that the country’s airports, roads and railways must be improved if Vietnam is to truly compete with other countries such as Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

He opined: “Vietnam still has a long way to go to become a regional MICE destination, but we are eager to tap into this market.”

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