As an influencer in Vietnam’s tourism industry, Sylvia Nguyen, CEO of Foodinco Land JSC, under the Alphanam Group, has been on a mission to bring the world’s international hotel brands into Vietnam and fulfil the country’s desire for growth with great responsibility.
Alphanam has decided to join hands with the talented architect Bill Bensley and Marriott International to build a luxury resort in Sapa, in the northern mountains of Vietnam. Why and how did this co-operation come into being?
Our journey of putting together the best and experienced talents for Sapa came not without its challenges. I spent a few years to talk to dozens of world-class designers about the projects in Sapa.
After all this time, I felt that Bill Bensley is the right person to carry out our vision. Together, we will build a hotel that local people can truly be proud of while treating the environment with respect. You will rarely find an architect who is more passionate about protecting the environment, and enhancing the local community’s livelihood, than Bill. Having seen his initial concept drawings, I was very happy with my decision, and feel excited to see what he has in store for us next.
While good design can draw people to book the hotel, good services bring it to life. After the success of JW Marriott Hanoi and JW Marriott Phu Quoc, JW Marriott Sapa is a natural choice. Marriott International is one of the best hotel operators in the world and a good partner for Alphanam. This new market needs experienced operators to train staff and set the right standards.
During the numerous trips I took to Sapa with Bill Bensley and Marriott International’s team, we shared the belief that the area deserves the world’s attention. Everyone is dedicated to making this hotel become a world-class hotel that elevates the locals’ culture and livelihood.
There is a debate on whether too much development would destroy the natural landscape and lead to less attraction for visitors. How is your view on this, considering your development plans?
As with anything in life, any development comes with trade-offs. When a town becomes tourist hotspot, it will need adequate services, lodging, and entertainment, to satisfy visitors’ demands. Construction is inevitable for these needs. However, good planning can lead to a more sustainable growth that combines areas dedicated to economic growth with those meant to protect and preserve the environment.
Sapa is a breathtaking location to locals and foreigners alike. When they arrive at Sapa, they often think of it as the manifestation of what Vietnam was like in their imagination. This charm of Sapa cannot be replicated. Currently, we are working on a museum that will hopefully play a role in safekeeping the local culture and identities and uphold what makes Sapa so unique.
Bill Bensley is also the designer of the Hotel De La Coupole MGallery Sapa. Are you afraid that another hotel by the same designer will be just more of the same?
Hotel De La Coupole M Gallery Sapa is a unique product, and we frequently stay there. The JW Marriott Sapa will be at a different location, and it belongs to a different product category.
For such a talented designer like Bill Bensley and his team, it is impossible to do the same thing twice. I believe the upcoming JW Marriott will be a great complementing product to what Sapa currently offers while being a role model for resorts in the region and a good addition to the current JW Marriott hotels in Vietnam. We are doing our best to bring Sapa to the world stage, and therefore it should have a variety of tourism products.
Alphanam Group is operating two international hotel projects along the coast of Danang, the Four Points by Sheraton Danang and Altara Suites. What are the advantages does your company bring to a project like JW Marriott Sapa?
My focus has always been on hotel development. The Four Points by Sheraton and Altara Suites in Danang are the first two products we released to the market. Moreover, we have a dozen more in different tiers and locations in the pipeline. Based on what we have experienced so far, what most others fear while developing a luxury product has become our strength. We have the right foundation and mindset to deliver high-quality hospitality products.
Lao Cai is your hometown, so why did Alphanam Group not choose this province prior to invest?
Right timing is an important ingredient to the success of any project. Sapa is currently designated as a tourism destination of national importance, with an increased focus on developing its infrastructure, connectivity, and investments. The government of Lao Cai has a joint mission to make Sapa an internationally acclaimed destination, which allows not only Alphanam but several large companies to invest in the province.
After completing JW Marriott Sapa, what are your plans for Sapa?
The plan to bring Sapa to the world stage does not stop at just one hotel. We have more projects in the pipeline such as the Courtyard by Marriott, the Holiday Inn Resort, Altara Suites, and the InterContinental Hotel and Resort, to offer a variety of products in Sapa fit for different domestic and international demands.
What would you suggest to the local authorities to attract more domestic and international investors to Sapa while ensuring a sustainable direction?
What Sapa needs is not a high quantity but rather a high quality of investors. People who have a long-term vision in tourism and are willing to build the right products to support it. We should not rush development. Instead, it is worthwhile to look at a multitude of offerings that can compliment Sapa, such as eco-tourism, trekking tours, adventure tours, foodie tours, and so on. It is important to embrace the local community and have them be a part of promoting their hometown. I hope that everyone who cares for it could work together to create the best future for Sapa and the whole province.