Once a bucket list destination for the intrepid traveller, Vietnam has blossomed into a must-visit tourism powerhouse, where loyal repeat visitors see new improvements every year and the steady stream of new arrivals enjoy its ever-evolving offerings. By Emily Millett
Vietnam’s tourism industry is going from strength to strength and the numbers are there to prove it. Statistics released by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) highlight that international arrivals to the country have tripled in the last decade, and the destination looks set to surpass 2018’s record-breaking arrival figures of 15.5 million, with the first nine months of 2019 alone attracting 12.9 million international visitors – an 11 per cent increase over the same period in 2018.
“Increasing international tourist arrivals are a key factor in the development of the economy in general and the hospitality sector in particular,” said director of PR and communications, Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, Cassandra Cuevas. “This growth is driven by infrastructure developments, the entry of both low-cost and major carriers, a flexible visa entry and exemption system, and government initiatives to promote tourism. Increasing domestic spending power also accounts for the healthy travel patterns. Tourism is such a significant driver for the Vietnamese economy. Not only will there be major new hospitality players in central Vietnam, we are also aware of plans to establish special economic zones around the country,” Cuevas added.
Fuelling the destination’s current growth spurt, a slew of developments are underway across Vietnam, with the Vietnamese government committed to investing some $1.3 billion into the country’s tourism infrastructure development throughout 2020. This includes new hospitality offerings, as well as infrastructural enhancements, such as new roads to tourist sites, set to encourage further arrivals and open up new regions for tourism.
Van Don International Airport in Quang Ninh province was named Asia’s leading new airport in 2019 and is expected to bring an influx of visitors to the surrounding regions, while Long Thanh Airport outside Saigon is slated to serve an estimated annual capacity of 25 million passengers when it opens in 2025. This new airport is expected to become a major international hub, opening up the whole of southern Vietnam and completely reshaping the region.
The destination is also undergoing significant development to its hospitality portfolio, with some 29,625 hotel rooms currently under construction nationwide, according to STR.
Swiss-Belhotel International is set to open three new hotels, resorts and residences across the country, including the 151-room Swiss-Belresort Tuyen Lam in the Central Highlands and Swiss-Belhotel Suites & Residences Ha Long Bay, scheduled to open before the end of 2019. In 2022, the group is due to welcome Swiss-Belresort Bai Dai Phu Quoc on Vietnam’s southern coast, while further plans are in the works to expand into Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Haiphong and Danang, as well as beachfront destinations Phu Quoc, Quy Nhon and Van Phong, and cultural sites Sapa and Hoi An over the next three to four years.
“Vietnam is one of the world’s most dynamic tourism destinations,” said executive director and vice president operations and development – Vietnam, Swiss-Belhotel International, Edward Faull, “The country’s beautiful natural scenery and captivating culture, combined with a thriving economy, modernising infrastructure and progressive government policies, are driving a rapid increase in domestic and international visitor numbers.”
Minor Hotels is also tapping into Vietnam’s growing tourism potential, with the opening of a new Avani Hotels & Resorts-branded property on Doc Let Beach in Nha Trang.
“We are very excited to add Avani Doc Let Resort to our portfolio in Vietnam,” explained vice president of operations, Avani Hotels & Resorts, Javier Pardo. “This untouched part of Vietnam not only introduces our guests to a new hidden treasure, but it also offers a range of new travel experiences, which fit perfectly with the Avani brand.”
Avani Doc Let Resort is currently in the final stages of development and is slated to open by mid-2020. As well as 273 rooms and suites, the property is set to offer an AvaniSpa and AvaniFit gym, as well as 1,000m2 of social events and meetings space, an all-day dining restaurant and a beach club.
In response to the rise in Vietnam’s reputation as a beach destination, Meliá Hotels and Resorts opened the five-star Meliá Ho Tram Beach Resort earlier this year, and according to the resort’s general manager, Manuel Ferriol, the group expects to open five additional properties in Vietnam in the near future. These include Gran Meliá Cam Ranh Bay, Meliá Phu Quoc, INNSiDE by Meliá Halong Bay, The Reed Hotel managed by Meliá Hotels International (Meliá Ninh Binh) and Lavender Boutique Hotel (INNSiDE by Meliá Saigon Mariamman).
Meanwhile, homegrown Fusion Hotel Group also has exciting development plans in place. The group’s chief operating officer, Atilla Erda, told TTG: “2020 will be a year of continued growth and expansion with the third of our chic urban hotels, Fusion Suites Vung Tau, scheduled to open in the southern Vietnamese beach town of Vung Tau in the first quarter of the year. Work on Fusion Resort & Villas Da Nang is ongoing and will be our third property in this rapidly developing coastal city. We will also take over the management of a property in Hoi An to create Hoi An Memories by Fusion. The group is also set to launch a new brand next year, with the opening of Maia Quy Nhon in Q2.”
DRIVE FOR SUSTAINABILITY
As the industry grows in Vietnam, a focus on sustainability ensures that development rolls out in accordance to the global increase in climate consciousness and hospitality companies across the board are working to keep up with the trend.
Fusion Hotel Group told TTG: “2020 will see Fusion take on more social responsibility, further developing our organisational sustainability policy and actively implementing a company-wide plan. With our expansion, we recognise that our bottom-line must extend beyond one of simply profit, to include people and the planet too, and that unless managed properly, there is the potential to negatively impact the social and natural environments we operate in. This is the future of hospitality in Vietnam, and as always, we strive to lead.”
As the market becomes more environmentally and socially aware, Fusion Hotel Group has expanded the use of natural, locally sourced ingredients in its Maia Spa’s treatments and restaurant menus, in a bid to support a focus on sustainability and benefit local farmers and artisans.
Following a complete upgrade of the hotel’s lobby area and Park Lounge, Park Hyatt Saigon is set to continue its conservation efforts in 2020, as the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, Phuong Anh Nguyen told TTG: “As conserving and protecting natural resources influences the travel and tourism sector in Vietnam, we are continuously taking small steps towards protecting Mother Earth by minimising our impact upon ecosystems or the environment. Our sustainability commitments include installing refill water stations on all floors to reduce the use of plastic bottles and adopting eco-friendly electricity and water heating systems.”
Meanwhile, The Reverie Saigon is part of the first building in Vietnam to be awarded the ISO standards for environmental and energy management systems, proving that sustainability is a key issue for the destination and its tourism stakeholders.
“The environment will undoubtedly continue to be a major factor in the travel and tourism sector. It’s very important for businesses to adapt a holistic approach in this area – eliminating plastic straws is simply not enough,” vice president of resource planning and development, The Reverie Saigon, James Young told TTG. “We endeavour to be at the forefront of what is done here in Vietnam. The environment is a collective challenge which we will need to solve together.”
Vietnam has opened up to a world of new markets and travellers, boosted by major local and international investment into infrastructure and hospitality enhancements, along with the increasing visibility and accessibility.