HONG KONG BUSINESS travellers can expect to pay more to stay in Ho Chi Minh City this year as demand for accommodation continues to outstrip supply. However, there will be more choice, with one new luxury hotel about to open and a new wing being added to another. Recent outbreaks of bird flu have done little to dampen corporate travel to the bustling Vietnamese city, with some hoteliers looking to increase room rates by up to 10 per cent. 'Travellers and travel agents are better informed and less fearful. They ask us for regular updates on bird flu, but we haven't seen any cancellations,' Vidotour Indochina Travel inbound tour operator Helen Lowy said. The opening of the new 259-room Park Hyatt - planned for next month - will help ease congestion at peak periods and provide a top-of-the-range alternative for corporate high-fliers. Designed in a classic French colonial style, the exclusive hotel overlooks the city's famous Opera House in Lam Son Square. Park Hyatt director of marketing Aaishah Bohari said: 'There are certain times when you cannot get a five-star room here. So, from a business perspective, the timing couldn't be better.' The Park Hyatt will compete against the Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers and the historic Caravelle Hotel for the top end of the market. Room rates start from US$220 at the Sheraton and US$190 at the Caravelle. However, for travellers seeking five-star luxury at a more competitive rate, the Sofitel Plaza Saigon continues to be a popular choice. The Sofitel, in the commercial and consular belt on Le Duan boulevard, just outside the main tourist precinct, is a sophisticated 290-room hotel with world-class restaurants and excellent business club facilities. General manager Guy Poujoulat said: 'We pride ourselves on our food.' The hotel's fine-dining outlet L'Olivier is one of the best French restaurants in a city famous for its French cuisine. Rates at the Sofitel start at US$150. Business club rooms, which offer everything from broadband access to an in-room clothes press, are priced at US$200. For mid-range hotels, there are several good options - the Omni Hotel, of the Marco Polo Group, the Duxton Hotel and the Novotel Garden Plaza Saigon. Smart travellers are advised to check out the Novotel, which is due to open a 48-room wing early next month. All rooms will be business-club standard. The Novotel, near the airport and the convention centre, is recognised for providing reliable, good quality business accommodation at affordable rates. For those wanting to experience more traditional, old-world accommodation, there are several worthy state-run hotels. The best of these is the Majestic, which overlooks the Saigon River. Walking into the foyer is like stepping back in time. Guests are greeted with grand chandeliers hanging from high, ornate ceilings, wire cage elevators, polished brass fittings and huge leather loungers. For travellers who can live without round-the-clock service and a hi-tech business centre, the Majestic could be a fun alternative at about US$100 a night. Other well-known hotels include the Grand, the Continental and the Rex, whose roof-top bar was a regular watering hole for correspondents during the Vietnam war. But these hotels are probably more suited to holidaymakers than businessmen. Ho Chi Minh offers plenty of after-dark entertainment options. The Saigon Saigon bar atop the Caravelle offers live music and commanding views of the city, while the Sax n Art Club is a hot new jazz club with a cosy ambience. There are plenty of pubs and bars, ranging from the chic Q Bar under the Opera House, to the last-stop venue Lost in Saigon. Most venues close around midnight but more determined night owls might chance upon a bar that continues to serve drinks into the early hours.