WHEN the United States announced the lifting of its trade embargo on Vietnam earlier this year, one of the most quoted Vietnam personalities was Omni Saigon Hotel general Dominique Nordmann. His line, ''I'm glad I put hamburgers on the menu'', appeared on international news services and was picked up by media around the world. The opening of the hotel just three days before the lifting of the embargo was impeccable timing. It attracted media attention - not because the property had a sudden boom in business - but because it epitomised the dramatic changes in a country eager to catch up with the rest of the world. Its presence as the first international, four-star business hotel highlighted the city's emerging role as a destination for foreign investors. To the Vietnamese, the hotel was an important event because it generated 600 jobs, of which 530 went to the city community. According to Ho Chi Minh City-based journalist Minh Chau of the Vietnamese-language Business Weekly Review, the hotel illustrated the importance of foreign investors in developing the country's economy. ''We welcome foreign investors as it helps our economy,'' she said. The property has a boutique hotel style, with old colonial charms. With white walls and wide arches, the hotel has an ambience rarely found in business hotels, which usually opt for functional design. Each of the low-rise property's 248 rooms is spacious and includes large desks instead of the usual desk-dressing table. Despite the media hype about Vietnam Mr Nordmann, who was part of the team who built the hotel from the ground up, cautions against any over-enthusiasm. He said massive bureaucratic wrangles meant things could not be done quickly and much time was spent shuttling between government departments. The lack of infrastructure also represents problems of expensive commodities and services. Mr Nordmann said almost all infrastructure in the country had to be rebuilt now that the government had thrown its doors wide open for foreigner investments. While visitors have started moving into Vietnam, strict immigration policies which involve stacks of forms, shortages of flights and hotel rooms have resulted in a high incidence of the ''no show factor'', according to Mr Nordmann. ''We are experiencing many instances where a guest makes a room reservation and doesn't turn up,'' he said. ''When that happens, we know that he has either failed to get a flight or was unable to get a visa to come into the country.'' He said the room inventory in Ho Chi Minh City stood at 1,500, and more rooms were needed. Several Hong Kong developers are in the city building properties to tap into the country's tourism potential. Among them are the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels and New World Development. The New World property is expected to increase the city's room supply by 600 rooms when it opens later this year. While the opening of new hotels will mean more competition for his hotel, Mr Nordmann is confident that the property will hold its own. ''As the first business hotel in the city, I am optimistic that we will do well. Being close to the airport is also an advantage to us,'' he said. The hotel has already started to see occupancy of 60 to 68 per cent, with a healthy average room rate. ''We are targeting an average occupancy of about 72 per cent by the end of the year,'' he said.