Last update: 11:30 | 08/11/2017
Time Out reporter explores how Vietnam is maximising its venue capacity to become the fastest-growing luxury MICE destination in Asia.
Tourism is arguably the driving force of Vietnam. In the first half of 2017, visitor numbers increased by 72.2% to over 1.2 million, with total visitor numbers to Vietnam projected to reach 3.2 million by the year-end. With continual strong GDP growth, further infrastructure development, improved connectivity and accessibility, and foreign direct investment figures reaching 70% year-on-year, we can expect to see a strong future for Vietnam’s tourism sector and economy in general.
An ideal destination for MICE
Corporate companies and MICE planners invariably gravitate towards the Vietnamese cities of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Central Vietnam when choosing a destination for their offsite meetings and incentive trips. As major gateways into the country, these locations are the logical choices, having the infrastructure and services to handle the unique needs of event organisers and meetings planners.
Furthermore, Danang and Nha Trang, two major cities of the central region, still have plenty of hidden attractions left for visitors to discover.
With Vietnam being recognised as an excellent destination for MICE, the tourism industry, especially luxury hotels and airlines, is promoting the country’s central coast for MICE events. Combined with its unique and fascinating culture and the natural beauty of the region, central Vietnam is an ideal location for event planners who can be assured of a well-planned and successful outcome.
Vietnam is suitable for MICE of all sizes in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and now central Vietnam (Hue, Danang, Hoi An, Nha Trang). The country offers a wide selection of international standard hotels with state-of-the-art conference facilities and meeting rooms as well as a variety of natural and cultural attractions to suit all tastes, golf courses, relaxation activities, health and spa facilities and fine cuisine.
Danang and Nha Trang are the destinations for APEC 2017, now recognised as an important hub for “Luxury MICE”. Billionaires from across the globe, including the Middle East and Asia, will fly to Danang in their private planes for a financial and tourism conference held at the InterContinental Danang.
Ideal infrastructure and facilities for MICE
Along with the country’s global integration and economic development, Vietnam has made progress in attracting MICE business. The country’s infrastructure is improving and airports are expanding, with new flights operating regionally and internationally, and more brand name hotels and resorts have opened.
This November, the global spotlight is about to shine on the central coast of Danang – where the 2017 APEC Summit will take place. The city is ready to showcase their very best – from people, cuisine, culture and scenery to real estate investment, which has increased rapidly in recent years. And now, the country can be even prouder of its flourishing tourism city, with it being chosen as the location for such a major event as the 2017 APEC. More than 100 conferences attended by world leaders, 1000 global businesses and 6000 international reporters will be held in Danang during the 2017 APEC event.
Giving a boost to Vietnam’s hospitality market, Hanoi, Halong, Danang, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City added many more 4 and 5 star international hotels in 2017, most of them targeting the promising MICE market thanks to the hosts of the 2017 APEC Summit. This is good news for tourism recovery in Vietnam as local and foreign travel agencies have received significantly more MICE requests, especially from APEC member economies with groups ranging from 50 to 300 people.
In addition, Vietnamese hotels have been honoured to receive numerous prestigious international awards. Eight Vietnamese hotels made the Conde Nast Traveler Awards list, including Reverie Saigon claiming fourth Best Hotel in the World and taking the number 1 spot in Asia. While no other hotel from Vietnam was placed among the world’s top 50, La Residence Hue Hotel & Spa took eighth place on the Top Hotels in Asia list and the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi was named number 21. Each has been a fixture on the list over the past several years.
The Park Hyatt Saigon rounded out recognition for hotels in Vietnam, finishing 18th on the top 25 hotels list. On the resort side, four properties in Vietnam also placed in the annual contest: Banyan Tree Lang Co (No. 6), InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula (No. 8), Angsana Lang Co (No. 11) and Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai (No. 37). Voters considered more than 7,320 hotels and resorts around the world, casting ballots from desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Airline make MICE fly higher
Air transport is set to generate even more economic growth, employment, cultural and educational opportunities. The first century of air travel has seen about 65 billion passengers take to the sky. The next 65 billion will fly in the next 20 years alone. In Vietnam, the growth of the airline sector in the last five years has provided a significant boost to the tourism economy.
MICE tourism is characterised by the use of coach transfer and public transport within a destination, minimising traffic congestion. Furthermore, to minimise possible inconvenience to the local resident population, air carriers such as VietJetAir and Vietnam Airlines help destinations get closer and closer. Currently 10 big cities around the country are connected with regular flights provided by Vietnam Airlines, VietJetAir and Jetstar Pacific.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Vietnam is one of the seven fastest-growing markets for air transportation in the world. The country is a dynamic and emerging air traffic market, with the industry contributing US$6 billion to the country’s GDP and employing a workforce of 230,000.
Tourism is a key industry
The Vietnamese government recognises tourism as a clean and key economic industry. Meetings are becoming a valued tool for furthering operational objectives and success with a majority of client-side meeting planners indicating that meetings are considered important within their organisation.
Conference and business tourism takes place throughout the year. This year-round nature of conference and business tourism will lead to the creation and sustenance of permanent jobs. MICE business caters for high quality and therefore high yield end of the market. High income and high profits are common in the MICE industry.
According to the recent HSBC Global Connections Trade Forecast report, tourism was Vietnam’s main services export in 2015 and is expected to drive services export growth in 2016-30. Transport is a distant second, benefiting from a booming goods trade.
The report also stresses that trade in services in Vietnam centres on tourism and travel. Given the country’s location, its tourist attractions and relatively low costs, Vietnam has become a favourable destination for many travellers. Currently, tourism accounts for about two-third of services exports.
Despite declines in international arrivals in 2014 and 2015, improvements have been seen in 2016 as efforts to boost tourism, such as relaxing visa restrictions for particular countries, were implemented. Vietnam’s geographic advantage, its natural wonders and sites and relatively low costs continue to attract tourists from around the world.
Indeed, Vietnam’s relatively low cost of travelling, coupled with rising incomes and costs in neighbouring countries, make it very attractive to tourists.
Added to this, in 2016 the government issued a special free entry visa for five European countries including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, resulting in a 21% increase in tourists from these markets in the first ten months of the year compared with the same period last year. Moreover, the number of Asian tourists visiting the country also grew rapidly, 70% of whom came from China and the Republic of Korea.
Estimates suggest that the revenue of the tourism industry gained nearly US$16.5 billion in the first nine months of 2017, a 27% increase over the same period last year.