Far from the madding crowd: growth in visitors to Vietnam’s remote regions benefits local hotel business
The central and northern parts of the country are hosting more travellers, thanks to better flight connections and transport links, and fantastic accommodation, scenery and leisure activities
While Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, remains the top destination for many first-time visitors to Vietnam, because of its historical background and colonial architecture, an increasing number of visitors are heading to the north and central parts of the country, particularly to places such as Hanoi and Danang and their surrounding regions. This has led to a growth in the hotel business in those areas.
Hanoi in northern Vietnam has seen an increase in business and leisure travellers. According to Anthony Slewka, director of sales and marketing at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, many business travellers come to Hanoi because it is where the headquarters of most government departments are located, and is home to many world organisations, NGOs, banks, accounting firms, and key manufacturers.
The city is also a convenient transport hub for key outlying attractions in northern Vietnam such as Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh and Sapa.
Slewka says that, with the increase in the number of visitors this year, occupancy rates at five-star hotels have grown, and hotel rates – which have dropped by some 30 per cent over the past four years – have stabilised.
Built in 1901 by French investors, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi was the first five-star hotel in Vietnam, and is the oldest. It has two distinct wings – the Metropole wing, where the rooms and public areas are kept as they were some 115 years ago; and the Opera wing, where rooms are neoclassical in design and are more modern.
The hotel’s top markets for visitors are the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Australia.
In central Vietnam, Danang has become a must-see destination for anyone taking a trip to Vietnam, says Timothy Nott, general manager of Pullman Danang Beach Resort. With its international airport and daily flights to key Asian destinations, Danang is growing in popularity with overseas visitors. High-quality hotels, resorts and restaurants, and world-class golf courses and shopping malls are rapidly being built to meet demand.
Pullman Danang Beach Resort is located directly on the Danang beach and is only 10 minutes away from the airport and downtown. The resort features 186 guest rooms and cottages, all with private balconies. It offers an array of leisure facilities, as well as meeting and conference facilities for up to 900 delegates.
The resort’s main markets for visitors are Japan, Korea, China and Australia. However, the long-haul markets are also starting grow. “With the expansion of the Danang International Airport near completion, we are looking forward to welcoming more guests,” Nott says.
About 55km from Danang lies the small town of Lang Co, which is famous among the Vietnamese for its long stretches of golden sand with stunning views of the East Sea and its mountain landscape.
Banyan Tree Lang Co has an entire protected bay in the area, with its own hills to the back and a 3km-long private beach. It also has an 18-hole championship golf course, a spa and offers a range of recreational activities.
“We chose Lang Co because of its proximity to the cultural centres of Vietnam which will appeal to tourists,” says Michal Zitek, area general manager of Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts. Zitek says that, because of the increase in the number of flight connections, a large proportion of the resort’s guests come from within Asia, from places such as Hong Kong, Korea, China, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand.
Not far from Lang Co is Hue, a Unesco World Heritage site which was home to 13 emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty.
Set on the banks of the Perfume River, La Residence Hue Hotel and Spa targets guests who appreciate the art of living – including culture, history, art and luxury. The hotel was built in the 1930s and was the official residence of the French governor in central Vietnam until 1954.
Most of its guests are from Europe, the US, and Australia, although the number of Asian and domestic guests is increasing.
The hotel plans to expand so that it can provide guests with a better view of the river, and offers such facilities as a luxury spa, restaurants, bars, and meeting and banquet rooms.
In southern Vietnam, Phu Quoc island, some 50km off the mainland, is gaining in popularity with holiday makers. “Phu Quoc is becoming well-known for its warm and stunning beaches, untouched natural environment, friendly locals and fantastic scuba diving and snorkelling,” says Jeevan Thomas, resort manager of Salinda Resort Phu Quoc Island, the first luxury resort on the island.
Thomas says the resort features an ultra contemporary architectural concept, and its layout, scale and the textures of the rooms and villas blend into the natural surroundings of lush tropical vegetation. The resort also features the only spa in Vietnam operated by a professional spa team from Thailand, and has an open kitchen restaurant by the sea.
The resort’s major markets are Britain, Germany, Finland, Sweden and France, with a growing number of guests coming from the US and Japan.