Vietnam’s upscale tourism on the rise

January 23, 2020 | 20:39
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With new luxury hotels, world-class golf courses, and international entertainment complexes recently opened or set to open soon, Vietnam is shaping up to be one of the most dynamic destinations in Asia with luxury as the fastest-growing segment. Nhat Ha reports.
vietnams upscale tourism on the rise

In 2019, Vietnam hosted the World Travel Awards of Asia and Oceania for the first time. During the events, it was the second consecutive year Vietnam had been honoured as the leading destination in Asia, with numerous hotels and resorts around the country winning prestigious awards for their luxurious services.

The awards present a great opportunity to promote the country’s tourism image in the eyes of international tourists as well as the world’s leading tourism brands.

According to the experts, Vietnam’s tourism is one of the fastest-growing in the world. In 2019, the country received over 18 million international arrivals, which was 16.2 per cent more than in the previous year.

Vietnamese airlines opened direct flights to tens of destinations in Europe, Asia, and even America, aiming to extend to new tourism markets, while also supporting local airlines and the hotel industry.

Thanks to the government’s policy in relaxing visa restrictions, in 2019 around 14.4 million arrivals to Vietnam came from Asia, marking an increase of 19.1 per cent on-year, and more than 2.16 million visitors came from European countries, 6.4 per cent more than in 2018.

By further easing visa requirements, the robust growth of European visitors could be continued.

Instead of just relying on traditional toolkits, like investing in marketing and improving infrastructure that take a long time to come to fruition, the country has implemented some innovative policies to boost tourism in the country and diversified its tourism products.

Such significant achievements in the tourism industry helped Vietnam to rank 63rd out of 140 countries in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019.

vietnams upscale tourism on the rise
Vietnam has risen in tourism competitiveness, and has all the tools to climb even further

High-end tourism on the rise

Luxury tourism only accounts for 3 per cent of the total number of visitors to Vietnam but they contribute a remarkable part to the total revenue of the sector. Unlike mass tourism, where many people prefer to travel in groups, upmarket tourists often travel in small groups with specific requirements such as privacy, uniqueness, and unusual experiences.

As such, golf tourism has become a potential target for Vietnamese tourism. Named Asia’s best golf destination in the past two consecutive years by the World Golf Awards, Vietnam’s golf tourism developed strongly with the appearance of world-class golf courses throughout the country.

According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, international travel companies aim to increase golf-related arrivals by 50 per cent, which would likely generate sizeable revenue to the country, as golf tourists spend twice as much as other travellers. This could translate into a $1 billion business in 2020.

Furthermore, design director of planning and landscape for Asia at Canadian-based B+H Architects, Barry Day, once shared with VIR, “Given its varied and largely undeveloped coastline, beautiful mountains, and serene forests, Vietnam is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the growing global and local eco-luxury tourism sector.”

Luxury tourism is no longer a narrow concept limited to staying in 5-star hotels but ranges across the whole experience including the method of transport, such as by helicopter or seaplane, and excursions that are not normally available to regular tourists, such as a private visit to an artist’s studio. For these travellers, the most important aspect of their journey is that it is memorable.

Today’s luxury travellers want to be entertained and stimulated, rather than simply pampered, and Vietnam offers a magical mix of tropical beaches, post-colonial charm, a string of world heritage sites, stunning inland scenery, a world-renowned cuisine, and a home-grown flair for hospitality.

According to Pham Ha, chairman of Lux Group, “Upscale tours today must offer off-the-beaten-track experiences. High-end tourists also expect efficiency, seamless travel, value for money, and a return on personal values. Many will opt for short trips which offer a slice of local culture, a splash of adventure, and authentic experiences.”

Upscale tailor-made tours in Vietnam now offer yacht cruises, helicopter tours, limousine services, wellness tours with world-class spas, centuries-old massage techniques, and delicious healthy cuisine.

Starting from Ho Chi Minh City and ending in Hanoi (or vice versa), guests can enjoy wonderful treatments and leisurely stays at some of the best hotels and resorts in the world at amazing destinations.

Guillermo Pantoja - General manager, Meliá Hanoi Hotel

vietnams upscale tourism on the rise

Vietnam is quickly becoming a destination ready to meet the demand of luxury tourism by opening high-class resorts, able to compete with traditional destinations such as Thailand and Indonesia. Along with the increase in luxury hotels, Vietnam’s travel infrastructure is rapidly growing, allowing better and more convenient journeys.

Vietnam’s extensive and beautiful landscapes offer great capabilities to differentiate its tourism products. Luxury products continue to grow within different regions, and so do mass tourism attractions such as the Fansipan Cable Car and Bana Hills, capable of attracting thousands of tourists per day, in particular from neighbouring countries such as China and South Korea.

Vietnam has the opportunity to develop well-established tourist infrastructure to increase its visitors exponentially over the next few years. The country is opening and urbanising new local destinations which had not been yet developed over the past years, such as Quy Nhon, Ho Tram, Ba Vi, etc. Melia Hotel International has strongly followed this trend positioning our brand in these new destinations. Along with the aforementioned Melia Ho Tram in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, Melia Ba Vi located 1.5 hours from Hanoi is rapidly becoming a popular destination.

Antonio Montes - General manager SOL by Meliá Phu Quoc

vietnams upscale tourism on the rise

Vietnam is now one of the top ten destinations in Asia, with one of the fastest-growing luxury segments. Luxury travellers want to be entertained and stimulated, rather than simply pampered, and Vietnam offers precisely what they are looking for. Vietnam also offers fantastic connectivity from north to south. For example, travellers can cross the whole country within three hours by plane.

In my opinion, due to the growth of the local market, midscale products will be the most demanded ones in 2020 but, on the other hand, luxury products will be the most wanted for international travellers due to an unbelievable growth of the luxury segment in all hot destinations across the country.

Phu Quoc also profits from the new visa regulation, with free entry visas for up to 30 days. On top of that, the island has one of the best coastlines in Southeast Asia. Recently, the government has created favourable conditions to speed up the implementation of key infrastructure projects and to overcome limitations and weaknesses in planning management, land, construction, compensation, and sight clearance – all of which is helping to encourage national and international investors to develop hospitality projects which are increasing the visibility of this young destination in the south of Vietnam.

Tran Duy Hung - Investor, Stelia Beach Resort, Viet Beach

vietnams upscale tourism on the rise

Over past years, Vietnam’s tourism has grown miraculously both in quantity and quality. The 18 million international visitors to Vietnam in 2019 prove the success of the country’s efforts, including the bloom of high-class international travellers to the country. There is a large number of new 5- and 6-star hotels and resorts opening along the country. Vietnam has hosted various international conferences and is the perfect choice for wealthy people in the world to celebrate their dream weddings, book cave discoveries or cycling tours.

This year, I think eco-luxury and sea tourism will be on throne with the increasing investment from both local and international investors to such hot destinations as Danang, Khanh Hoa, Phu Quoc, and Quang Ninh. These destinations develop fast and sustainably. The pristine central coastal provinces have recently emerged as an attractive destination with great potentials for natural landscapes, good infrastructure, deep-water ports, airports, convenient transportation, and favourable regional connectivity.

Nick Bauer - General manager, Novotel Phu Quoc

vietnams upscale tourism on the rise

Vietnam as a destination is certainly maturing with more hotels opening in the premium and luxury sectors which, in turn, boosts awareness and drives further growth from major source markets such as South Korea, Thailand, China, Japan, Australia, and the United States.

If we consider long-haul markets such as Europe, the country’s vibrancy presents a unique selling point – travellers can enjoy a diverse mix of history, discovery and relaxation without having to leave the country. That is an important consideration when travellers choose their holiday destination and I believe that tourists, particularly from Europe, will seek quality resorts to relax and rejuvenate during their travels. Many visitors from Asia will seek vibrant destinations and opportunities for shopping.

In addition, Phu Quoc certainly has a bright future and I believe there is huge potential for growth in the coming years. Our Novotel hotel is complemented by a growing portfolio of Accor properties catering to various segments of the market. The island has an international airport with improved infrastructure. The destination benefits from wonderful weather with a warmer climate than some other destinations in Vietnam. The beaches are superb and well appreciated by the diverse array of travellers.

Lee Pearce - General manager, Pullman Hanoi

vietnams upscale tourism on the rise

Vietnam is well-known with domestic and international tourists as an attractive yet affordable destination with stunning beaches, unique cuisine, diverse landscapes, and a rich local culture. Recently, Vietnam has also attracted tourists with its unique architectural works. Tourism and transport in Vietnam are very convenient. This explains the remarkable growth compared to other countries in the region. This year will see an increase of startups and young entrepreneurs looking for investment potential in Vietnam.

This is a good opportunity for business hotels as Pullman Hanoi to reclaim its strength in providing MICE services. Moreover, tourism combined with healthcare is becoming a popular trend. Vietnam is famous for owning abundant and invaluable natural resources and traditional treatment therapies. A smart tourism product should optimise this sustainable trend. Last but not least, discovery tourism products such as yachts, casinos, golf courses, and, in the future, safari and ski services will also promise to receive remarkable changes.

For hotspots in 2020, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are seeing the booming hospitality growth. Emerging travel destinations like Sapa, Halong, and Phu Quoc are, on the other hand, dramatically attracting huge investment. The potential from natural, cultural, and social resources combined with open and attractive investment policies are the entry tickets for big sharks.

Pham Van Hien - Founder, The Anam Resort Cam Ranh

vietnams upscale tourism on the rise

As part of a huge tourism boom, insiders predict a total investment sum in Cam Ranh’s Long Beach alone of well over $1 billion over the next 10 years. Inevitably, this provides a huge opportunity to create jobs and the area is looking at an estimated 20,000+ new job openings over this period.

When in Vietnam’s luxury hospitality industry, you need to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and address a gap in the market, turning it into a prime opportunity. I had a vision for The Anam to become a luxurious Vietnamese hospitably brand that exceeds international standards. However, rather than investing in a well-established, international hotel brand, I was driven by an ambition to build a unique resort in an emerging destination with its own style paying homage to Vietnam’s warm hospitality and fascinating local culture and history.

For the year 2020, I think the luxury tourism trend is ushering in a state of zen, launching restorative wellness spa packages tailored to single guest. This is how to really turn up the heat on an individual spa journey and to start a unique luxury experience.

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