Vietnam's luxury travel segment requires a great deal more focus to bring its strengths into play. Ngoc Anh reports
Vietnam’s tourism sector has seen growth in recent times that ranks among the highest in the Asia-Pacific region. Of its many sub-sectors, luxury travel plays an important role in the sustainable development of the country’s tourism industry, “because it brings high turnover and profits and creates large numbers of jobs for local people,” according to Mr Nguyen Huu Tho, Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association. All countries in the region and around the world, he added, focus on the luxury travel segment. “Attracting greater numbers of luxury travellers is the goal of every country,” he said, and local culture, traditions and cuisine are particularly important in meeting such goals.
The concept of luxury tourism is understood differently by different people. According to Mr Tho, luxury tourists are those who travel for trade, investment, workshops, trade fairs and MICE purposes, while for Mr Pham Ha, CEO of Luxury Travel Ltd., they are usually free individual travellers (FITs), not group travellers, and they demand personal services. They are generally experienced, informed, well-travelled and adventurous, but have an eye for value for money. The age range varies, with some being younger and with money but little time, while others are older with both time and money.
Considered an attractive destination for tourists or those who seek adventure, Vietnam has attracted tourists from different segments and high-end tourism is certainly on the rise. According to luxury travel insiders, Vietnam is now one of the Top 10 destinations in Asia, with luxury travel the fastest-growing segment. A recent survey of 1,200 travel experts during World Travel Market (WTM) London 2013 confirms that Vietnam has been shaping up as one of the most attractive destinations in Asia, just behind China. Prestigious tourism magazines have also commented that Vietnam now provides luxury tourism experiences with special dishes and high-end hotels of international standard, and features an abundance of cultural heritage sites, natural beauty, and diverse cuisine.
Vietnam is indeed now tempting luxury travellers to its shores, with new boutique hotels and tours and its tourism infrastructure has improved dramatically. It also has a fast-growing number of modern luxury and spa destinations and golf courses and has introduced luxury river cruises to ensure stress-free journeys away from the busy roads. The next “upcoming” destination in Vietnam is the Con Dao archipelago, with its intimate villa resort and undeveloped beaches. The beach town of Nha Trang is a popular haven for holidaymakers, and just 90 minutes north of its Cam Ranh Airport is Vinh Hy Bay, where the Amanoi, the latest property of Aman Resorts, sits by a secluded beach. “These places alone show that Vietnam has so much to offer upscale travellers,” Mr Ha said.
The most famous tourism magazine in the world, Lonely Planet, recently named eight hotels and resorts in Vietnam as being popular among foreign travellers, including La Veranda Phu Quoc Resort, Flamingo Suites Ha Van in Nha Trang, Ha An Hotel in Hoi An, Victoria Can Tho Resort, Dream Hotel in Da Lat, Thanh Thuy Hotel in Ninh Binh, Hanoi Elite Hotel, and Giang Son Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.
In claiming increasing growth in the country’s luxury travel segment, Mr Tho said that in 2011 Vietnam attracted 6 million international arrivals and recorded total turnover (including from domestic tourism) of $5.6 billion, while in 2013 it attracted 7.5 million of international tourists and total turnover stood at $10 billion. This shows that income per traveller is increasing. “Attracting 7.5 million international arrivals in 2013, which was the target set for 2015, proves that Vietnam’s luxury travel segment has been growing,” he said. At destinations already attracting large numbers of luxury travellers, such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Ha Long Bay, Phan Thiet, and elsewhere, it is clear to see that infrastructure, services and human resources are meeting requirements. For example, Da Nang’s beachfront boasts many luxury hotels and resorts, such as HyattRegency, The Nam Hai, and the InterContinental. “Leading brands in luxury tourism are already present in Vietnam,” he said. There are nearly 60 five-star hotels in the country, against 30 or so in 2011, making Mr Tho believe that Vietnam’s tourism services are becoming more luxury oriented and its luxury travel segment increasingly growing and developing.
In Mr Ha’s opinion, with it