Mr. Le Thanh Than, Chairman of the Muong Thanh Group, plans to expand Muong Thanh Hotels nationwide and overseas.
In 1993, when Dien Bien province had no hotels at all, Mr. Le Thanh Than decided to build the first. In 1994, on the 40th anniversary of the victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu, the hotel was full to the brim with guests and tourists visiting the city. Realizing the potential, Mr. Than found that the hotel industry holds a great deal of promise.
The Muong Thanh Hotel Group has invested in 39 hotels to date. Its most significant milestone was investing in the Muong Thanh Hanoi Hotel, which opened in September 2009. It was the first international standard four-star hotel of the Group, marking a shift in investment strategy towards hotels and resorts of four- to five-stars.
Despite opening the hotel in Dien Bien 20 years ago, the idea of operating a chain of hotels came some time after. At the beginning of 2013 a Japanese investor, Tokyo Inn, announced investment in 100 three- to five-star hotels in Vietnam, including leases and new constructions. Tokyo Inn, though, soon withdrew. The ambition of the foreign investor made Mr. Than wonder why a local company with the financial resources could not take on a similar strategy.
In early 2014, while the Muong Thanh Group began its four-star Muong Thanh Vung Ang hotel project, there were questions asked over whether it was appropriate to locate a luxury four-star hotel with 198 rooms nearby the Vung Ang construction site, where many beleived a hotel could not succeed.
However, the question was soon answered. Just four months after opening, 150 of its 198 rooms were leased for long-term accommodation by international contractors involved in the nearby Formosa Steel project. Vung Ang has now become a hotspot for investment, so the hotel’s rooms, which were intended to serve tourists and visitors, are usually fully booked as long-term accommodation.
After the grand opening on November 24, 2014, the Group then opened the Muong Thanh Quang Tri Hotel on December 5. Its hotels now stand at 39 in total but Mr. Than doesn’t plan to stop at that figure. The Group recently announced a new project, on Ly Son Island.
Competing on price
With 30 hotels, Muong Thanh currently has 3,000 employees and a total of more than 5,000 rooms; the most in Vietnam’s tourism industry. Muong Thanh’s aim is that “the Group continues to expand not only within Vietnam but also into other countries and become a network of Vietnamese hotels of premium standard.” After previously building and launching thousands of cheap apartments, the experienced investor realized that this sector is not sustainable. The hotel industry, meanwhile, can bring long-term profits.
The plan to invest abroad began with the opening of a Muong Thanh hotel in Laos, after purchasing a great location in the capital of Vientiane. With 35 floors, Muong Thanh Vientiane will be the highest among the Group’s overseas investments. After opening six hotels in 2014, the Group expects to open ten this year.
With potential clear and relatively well-planned investment projects, Mr. Than receives full support from local authorities where he intends to invest. The Ha Tinh Provincial People’s Committee quickly allocated the land for the Muong Thanh Ha Tinh Hotel project after original plans were withdrawn by another investor, who was assigned the land but did not proceed with the project.
Meanwhile, the Muong Thanh Hotel in Bac Giang is now under construction, with support from local authorities. Bac Giang has approved the Group building a hotel in an area in 3/2 Square, which is considered a golden location in the province, linked to a convention center, a fitness center, and business center.
Many customers have commented that the interior equipment at Muong Thanh Hotels are not good enough to reach the four- and five-star standard. However, the fact is that the hotel group attracts large numbers of guests due to its competitive room tariffs.
The tariff at Muong Thanh Hotels is only 50 or 60 per cent of that at other hotels of similar standard. A four-star room at Muong Thanh Hotels costs around VND1 million per day ($46.5) while the price of other hotels can be double. The strategy of “low price” was previously applied successfully in the sale of apartments and is also a useful tactic in the hotel industry.
Mr. Than has three children. His eldest daughter is Ms. Le Hoang Yen, who was sent to study overseas for seven years. On the day of her return she was asked to manage the hotel’s operations. She conducted a human resources strategy to internationalize her employees so they meet the highest requirements of the hotel industry.
At the grand opening of Muong Thanh Hotels,her appearance was poised and professional as CEO of the Muong Thanh Group, with an image of a young and modern leader, while Mr. Than remains Chairman of the Group and continues to support his daughter by sharing his experience in the hotel industry.