Building a solid reputation

On track to becoming Vietnam’s next major business events destination, Quang Ninh is ready to pounce once the crisis is over

View of Quang Ninh Exhibition of Planning and Expo Center flanked by UNESCO-listed Halong Bay

Slated to be Vietnam’s next big business events destination, Quang Ninh is ready to make its move once the coronavirus crisis is over.

Recent years have seen a raft of developments across the province after Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) earmarked it to be developed into one of the country’s MICE destinations.

View of Quang Ninh Exhibition of Planning and Expo Center flanked by UNESCO-listed Halong Bay

Before the crisis happened, in December last year, the provincial Department of Tourism set out to boost business events tourism from 20 per cent to 35 per cent in 2020 – a figure authorities have set their eyes on once the world has been given the all-clear.

Developments helping establish the area as a choice business events destination include the opening of Van Don International Airport, Quang Ninh Exhibition of Planning and Expo Center, and the completion of Hanoi–Haiphong Expressway, halving the driving time from Hanoi to Halong to less than two hours. It has also hosted a string of international events, including ASEAN Tourism Forum 2019.

A surge in investment in Quang Ninh from major local developers, including Vingroup, Sungroup and FLC Group, as well as international hospitality brands joining the fray, such as MGallery and Wyndham, has also helped raise the destination’s profile.

Ngo Tien Duc, chief operating officer at Luxury Travel Vietnam, said: “Governments are investing in upgrading the infrastructure, and tourism boards are stepping up their efforts in Quang Ninh to promote it as a MICE destination.”

He added post-coronavirus, flash packages and attractive event budgets aimed at specific markets are essential to continue to promote the province.

Lan Le, managing director and co-founder of Luxperia, said the ease to organise charter flights, helicopters and private cruises in Quang Ninh will also help boost its appeal with business travellers.

Noted Le: “Avoiding crowds will be an increased trend that eventually will become an expectation. Charter flights and ocean cruises can easily access Quang Ninh, so this can be promoted for the safety of VIP MICE guests.”

Natural wonders
Quang Ninh’s major draw is Halong Bay. The majestic natural wonder is dotted with 1,600 limestone karsts, islands and islets that form a dramatic seascape of towering pillars rising from the sea.

And Halong Bay is proving to be the perfect playground for corporate travellers, with an increasing number of cruise operators curating innovative itineraries. For example, Bhaya Group boasts a team of dedicated business events experts to arrange corporate events ranging from teambuilding activities to conferences.

In mid-2019, Bhaya Group also secured exclusive access from Halong authorities to host events at Trinh Nu Cave, which was previously off-limits to visitors. The company is currently the only cruise operator granted access to the ancient grotto, which is one of 72 that dot the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The ancient grotto provides a flexible function area that can hold events for about 200 people. Tables and chairs, stages and other arrangements can be set up on the beach or inside the cave, making it ideal for gala dinners or special gatherings.

For incentive groups, Heritage Cruises has curated a four-day, three-night itinerary that sails guests through Halong Bay and on to lesser-visited Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay. Activities include a tailor-made cocktail class, CSR no-plastic activities in Cat Hai village, and cultural performances.

Cultural deep dives
While Halong Bay is the province’s main attraction, Quang Ninh is home to more than 620 historical and cultural attractions. A growing range of products have been developed to showcase these and also offer a glimpse into local life.

Yen Duc Village is a community-based tourism project about 60km west of Halong City. It offers a range of tours that are increasingly attracting tourists seeking authentic and immersive experiences. These range from traditional fishing and learning to cook like a local, through to water puppetry, and helping villagers farm.

Another popular attraction highly recommended is Cua Ong Temple. Standing as one of the most spiritual tourist sites in Quang Ninh, it sits on a hill and boasts stunning views across Bai Tu Long Bay.

Hop On Hop Off Vietnam also offers tours that can be curated for up to 40 pax through Halong City. Elsewhere, Northern Vietnam Helicopter Company has rolled out a series of flights offering an alternative way to view scenic Halong Bay. These can also be used for private transfer to events hosted at the bay’s islands or from the airport.

Infrastructure upgrade
With VNAT having earmarked Quang Ninh, developers have also been heavily investing in accommodation to cater to the growing number of business visitors.

Sun Group has opened a swathe of resorts and entertainment activities in the area, with several projects slated to open soon. This includes Yoko Onsen, a luxurious hot spring resort in Quang Hanh; Premier Village Halong Bay Resort in the heart of Ha Long city; and a three-wire cable car route on Cat Hai Island. The establishment of Van Don Economic Zone has also helped attract investment.

In line with this, FLC Group is currently carrying out several projects, including FLC Ngoc Vung Beach & Golf Resort, which will see Ngoc Vung island transformed into a high-end tourism hub by 2030. Amenities include five-star resorts and hotels, an international convention centre, golf course and safari park.

And while several major international brands have already landed on Quang Ninh’s shores, Best Western is gearing up to open 13-storey Best Western Premier Sapphire Ha Long in 4Q2020. It will feature 1,008 keys and a range of facilities, including a swimming pool, fitness centre, business centre, executive lounge and retail outlets.

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