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Growth linked to quality

Released at: 14:36, 20/06/2017

Growth linked to quality

Photo: Fusion Resort

Mr. Marco Van Aggele, Founder of Fusion, tells VET that becoming bigger doesn't necessarily mean becoming better.

by Linh San

Vietnam is one of the world’s fastest-changing countries. Do you think it currently has the tourism services to meet greater demand from higher numbers of tourists?

Yes and no. I think Vietnam has amazing locations, stunning scenery, and the human resources to support growth, but only through sensible ideas and the correct allocation of funding can it reach the next level and meet the surge in demand.

For me, the key is to meet that demand with products and services that people actually want to spend their money on without damaging the character or the unique charm of Vietnam. After all, this is what people want to experience when they come here.

Yes, mega-resorts and casinos and cable cars are all likely to succeed in the short term, but it’s important that there’s a balance for it to be sustainable. Vietnam has to adapt and grow to meet tourist demand, but if the very reason the demand is there in the first place is removed, if the natural scenery is destroyed or tarnished, or if those authentic “only in Vietnam” experiences are taken away, then the plan may fail.

The next hurdle is educating staff, not only about what international tourists want but also how to give it to them. For a country that’s relatively new to tourism and travel, it’s important to remember that many of the people you’re working with have never stepped foot inside an international-standard hotel. I think this is why some foreign tourists end up leaving Vietnam with negative views. They confuse cultural differences with poor service. This is why delivering the Fusion brand to our employees is just as important as delivering it to our guests. We want every employee, from the person that cleans your room to the hotel or resort manager, to develop a personal connection to the company and to their specific place within it. We try to make our guests feel at home, and we can only do that by becoming a family.

How many resorts under the Fusion brand have been opened in Vietnam? Based on its business performance in Vietnam, do you think the country’s hospitality market still has potential for development?

Fusion has opened six resorts and hotels in Vietnam and our team has more than 1,500 employees, including 300 spa specialists. Guests can experience our original inclusive all-spa concept, and our “breakfast anytime, anyplace” service, along with our unique Fusion approach to hospitality at Fusion Resort Nha Trang, Fusion Resort Phu Quoc, Fusion Maia Da Nang, Fusion Suites Saigon, Fusion Suites Da Nang Beach, and Alma Oasis Long Hai.

Since Fusion was launched in 2008, the response so far has been extremely positive. For Vietnam as a whole, even in the last year or so, with the release of the new King Kong movie, and with numerous international magazines, TV shows, and websites listing it as one of the world’s most spectacular “must-see” destinations, global interest is greater than ever.

At the same time, of course, the way in which people travel is changing. As we can see with the success of services like Airbnb, tourists want more than just another international chain hotel by a pretty beach. They want to experience a country through the eyes of its locals, in a way that is specific to their own tastes and their own interests. This is what we aim to do at Fusion. We’re providing hotels and resorts for people who wouldn’t usually want to stay in hotels and resorts. We’re giving you luxury, yes, but with a much more personalized touch, filled with surprises and small touches that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

At Fusion Suites Sai Gon, for example, an all-suite property close to the center of District 1, we’ve brought the calm and peaceful nature of Vietnam’s coastline into the city through our interior design concept. We know how hectic and stressful urban life can be, so why not go to sleep looking out at a sparkling ocean in your very own wooden cabin? We’ve tried our best to achieve that. We also offer an inclusive all-spa service at all of our properties where guests can get a massage, manicure, or beauty treatment at no extra cost.

Naturally, we also want our guests to be able to immerse themselves in the local culture. It’s important to provide high-quality accommodation, but that should only be a small part of your overall experience of Vietnam.

The future of hospitality in Vietnam isn’t just going to be about becoming bigger or more luxurious than the competition. Having a pillow menu, for instance, isn’t what will make your holiday memorable. The focus needs to be on the people, the personal interactions, building a hospitality culture that’s warm and friendly and aimed at providing experiences that are unique and unforgettable. People come to Vietnam to see and experience Vietnam, with all of its variety and texture and color. That is what Fusion is all about: providing an authentic experience. If the whole country becomes a big over-developed tourist attraction, demand may slip away.

What is your vision for developing Fusion in Vietnam over the next five years?

At Fusion, we are well aware that we can’t get better simply by getting bigger. Yes, we want to expand the Fusion brand across Vietnam, and eventually across the region, but we will always give each new project just as much care and attention as we did with the first.

The next exciting next phase for our team will be to introduce Fusion Retreats and Fusion Residences. We will also be launching Fusion Originals, a range of boutique-style properties that will be entirely different from the rest of the Fusion range, but will still share the same Fusion ethos to give guests a distinct taste of a city or region’s food, culture, and people.

Vietnam is a dynamic country. From the food to the scenery and the culture, it never stays the same. That is why no two Fusion properties are alike. Your adventure shouldn’t end the moment you step inside the lobby, so we’ve taken inspiration from the people and the traditions local to each site and put these into the food, the interior design, the architecture, and the overall functionality. There is one exception, of course. In each of our hotel and resort concepts, daily spa treatments are included in the room rates. We think that’s pretty special.

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