The South-east Asia Special: Vietnam

Several Vietnamese cities, especially Danang, are climbing up the ranks, thanks to a huge government effort and various investments

Ariyana Convention Centre

Vietnam is stepping up its game to better position itself as a major player in the regional MICE market. The last decade has seen the country’s business travel landscape expand exponentially as a swathe of products have come online, coupled with various government efforts.

Jeff Redl, managing director of Diethelm Travel Vietnam, said: “MICE business is definitely increasing in Vietnam compared with 10 years ago. The tourism industry as a whole has moved forward incredibly, and the business travel sector has grown.”

Ariyana Convention Centre

Vietnam National Authority for Tourism (VNAT) has become a lot more active in international marketing efforts, attending international business travel trade fairs to promote the country’s growing collection of MICE-ready destinations – Danang, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hanoi.

Danang’s rapid rise in recent years as a darling of planners is particularly noteworthy. It has helped to elevate the country’s standing among its regional competitors, with a raft of event infrastructure having come online.

In October 2017, the Ariyana Convention Centre opened, attracting numerous international events. It is connected to the Furama Danang’s International Convention Palace, which boasts 15 function rooms, and a pillarless Grand Ballroom for up to 2,500 pax. The Sheraton Grand Resort Danang, armed with 258 rooms and 3,300m2 of function space, was the next to open in January 2018.

By end-2019, the total number of hotel rooms in Danang will stand around 43,130, a 37 per cent year-on-year increase.

Said Redl: “Danang has positioned itself as a strong MICE hub, especially with help from the direct flight from Doha by Qatar Airways (in December 2018). This has encouraged business from Europe.”

Overall, the hosting of large-scale international events has also placed Vietnam in the spotlight. In 2017, Danang welcomed 21 world leaders to APEC 2017. This year, South-east Asian delegates flocked to Halong for the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2019, while the Trump-Kim summit was hosted in Hanoi in February.

Furama Resort Danang’s deputy general director Nguyen Duc Quynh, said another element that will help push the country’s business tourism landscape is the development of secondary destinations. For example, northern Halong is emerging as a MICE hub, thanks to its world-class conference centres and a range of business hotels opening.

He pointed out that Ninh Binh, Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, Vung Tau and Phu Quoc also hold potential. He said: “Cities with new air routes, conference centres and facilities need to be taken into consideration, especially cities with airports and direct flights.”

Meanwhile, Alexander Leven, general manager of Asian Trails Vietnam, noted a shift in source markets in recent years. He said Australians were a popular MICE source market for the country up until about three years ago, but numbers have fallen due to groups choosing to stay on home turf, or explore nearby.

Leven added that “we are now seeing more and more requests from South Africa”, while business from European countries, such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and France remain stable.

Other major changes include the decrease in demand from the pharmaceutical industry. “In the 1990s, the pharmaceutical industry was thriving. They would hold crazy incentive trips with huge numbers and stayed at four-star plus hotels. The industry has gone down now and brought with it big changes,” shared Leven.

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