The country is looking forward to a full resurgence of tourism after the complexities of the last couple of years. General manager of InterContinental Saigon Hotel & Residences Justin Malcolm talked to VIR’s Van Hanh about the demand for travel to Vietnam heading into 2023.
|General manager of InterContinental Saigon Hotel & Residences Justin Malcolm |
With your strong experiences on working in the global hospitality industry, how can you evaluate the upcoming travel demand?
My evaluation is really based on data. We can see at present, that the international airlift into Vietnam is still sitting at half of 2019 levels. We truly need a strong focus on introducing increased capacity in the last quarter of the year in order to communicate to the world that Vietnam is open and ready to do business.
Vietnam has a strong record of pandemic management, and as such confidence levels for those travelling to the country are high. We need to match that confidence level with seat capacity and flight frequency which will then result in more affordable travel. This is very important for the business world, and leisure world alike.
As a new general manager of InterContinental Saigon, have you got plans to renovate services and accommodation towards healthier and greener trends?
We never stop looking at ways to become a responsible global citizen. My immediate plans focus on the basics, with the total removal of single-use plastics for example.
Waste is also a rarely talked about topic and I’m currently focused on reducing hotel waste. We don’t have immediate renovation plans for the restaurant and bars; however, as we move towards these we will naturally include sustainability as part of our remodelling strategy.
Which solutions have you highlighted to make your hotel a must-choice venue for both local and international high-spend travellers?
InterContinental Saigon has been in this market for 13 years and has a very strong presence, both locally and internationally. We’re working on a number of initiatives that are in the early stages of development that include building upon the brand presence to create different, better, and special experiences for our guests and visitors.
This includes curated dining experiences, a revitalised signature food and beverage experience plan, and creatively reviewing our public spaces to maximise every square metre of the hotel residences. I can’t give too much away at present but I’m very excited about the work being undertaken now that will solidify our position in the market as the place to visit.
Ho Chi Minh City’s economy is bouncing back strongly but hoteliers and tourism providers still have concerns over the shortage of labour. Have you faced to such challenges?
Yes, absolutely, we all have. It’s certainly an industry-wide issue. That being said, since we’re a large operation we still went through the majority of the pandemic with 370 employees. Our residences remained busy which enabled the hotel to carry a higher workforce than others, and we’re benefiting from that now.
We all have a lot of work to do and this mission will not end for some time. We are heavily focused now on our employee branding and also have a number of initiatives underway to ensure this remains a priority.
What can you to do retain staff while attracting many more skilled labourers?
First and foremost, our leadership is central to retaining our talent. People stay for people, and given we are in a strong people-centric business, this only becomes ever more important. We have to spend more time with our people, and we have to look at every opportunity to motivate and inspire.
Inspiration also comes from doing things differently and creating opportunities for success, so we are very much embracing change. Fresh eyes always create exciting and new initiatives.
Can you share some opinions for local authorities to make the city’s tourism and hospitality sectors bloom and become more sustainable?
As mentioned, the immediate need is with flight frequency and seat capacity, it’s a must.
Secondly, the business travel segment has a huge opportunity for Ho Chi Minh City, and a focused strategy and spending plan against key target markets will allow this city to shift share from markets such as Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and others.
Recent rebranding efforts of the city have been very well received and “Vibrant Ho Chi Minh City” is a fresh baseline to build upon.
Indirect percentage contribution to Vietnam’s GDP from the travel and tourism sector must now be in the double digits, especially as we come out of the recovery period and enter a new economic era.
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Vietnam has welcomed more than 1.44 million international arrivals in the first eight months of 2022, a 13.7-fold rise from a year earlier, data showed.
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The MICE (meeting, incentive, convention, and exhibition) segment could gain traction and help lead the wave of tourism recovery in Vietnam, if post-pandemic restrictions are eventually eased.