In step with the Digital World

The Guide’s annual review tour of hotels and resorts around Vietnam this year took in Hanoi, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, and, in particular, the “paradise island” of Phu Quoc, and confirmed there are a great many options for the business and leisure traveler.

By Jessica Nguyen on November 02,2018 10:52 AM

In step with the Digital World

Photos: Viet Tuan

Digital transformation has strongly influenced improvements in the quality of services and brought customers and hospitality providers closer together.

The rapid growth of Vietnam’s hospitality industry is now very much dependent upon the clever and quick adaption and application of Industry 4.0 technology.

There can be no denying that the role of digital technology is rapidly shifting, from being a driver of marginal efficiency to an enabler of innovation and disruption. The travel and tourism sector has been at the forefront of digital disruption for decades, constantly changing the way people travel. Every day, it seems, new and innovative travel technologies are being developed to make travel and tourism an even more exciting and adventurous industry.

Bringing with us the question of “How has the digital transformation influenced hospitality providers?”, The Guide Awards Review Team began its annual check on candidates for The Guide Awards 2017-2018 in Hanoi and ended on Phu Quoc Island.

Assessing possible award winners can become a touch tedious but there does tend to be different things of interest every year in each location.

In step with the Digital World

Hanoi

Our first destination was Vietnam’s capital, at the opulent new Intercontinental Hanoi Landmark72, which celebrated its first birthday on September 22. A “new” face, the five-star hotel is located in the new administrative center of Hanoi, close to the National Convention Center in Nam Tu Liem district.

Our next stop was the Hanoi Daewoo Hotel. As one of the first five-star hotels in the city, the Daewoo benefits from its great location and offers two high-end services: the hotel and serviced apartments with special offers for guests. Capacity during the high season is good, at always over 90 per cent, thanks to it regularly welcoming national diplomatic delegations. The hotel has the largest outdoor swimming pool in Hanoi and a large conference room on the first floor. “Change is a constant and hotels now have to rely more on advanced technologies,” said Executive Assistant Manager Mr. Sunny Ghaiee. “Today’s travelers, especially millennials, are no longer just ‘wowed’ by the product and service; they expect a bit more and that is where hotels must excel, investing more in technologies and also in training their teams to exceed guests’ expectations.”

In step with the Digital World

The Daewoo is constantly upgrading its technologies to enhance the guest experience and streamline its operations. Upgrades are underway to its guest interaction software and the hotel is in the process of implementing the latest software in back-end support. It is also focusing on guest feedback software to obtain first-hand information from its guests and provide them with a response. Internet speed is one of the main drivers for all business travelers, and the Hanoi Daewoo Hotel possesses best-in-class internet; an ace in its service commitment.

The hotel constantly upgrades its software to enhance the guest experience. To support these upgrades, it invests in hardware - both at the front-end and the back-end. New equipment is being introduced across all departments and training in hardware and software is an ongoing process.

It’s also working on technology such as touch pads and interactive devices in its rooms. These technologies are all under review and will soon be introduced to elevate the “Daewoo experience”.

The Guide Team also visited Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake, superbly located on the banks of serene West Lake, the largest in the city, and adjacent to the famous 800-year-old Golden Lotus (Kim Lien) Pagoda. The Intercontinental is considered a “resort-style” hotel within Hanoi thanks to its chic and unique architecture, offering 293 stylish guest rooms and suites in a tranquil lakeside setting, with many rooms uniquely located on overwater pavilions.

At the Pan Pacific Hanoi Hotel, the Team was warmly welcomed by the hotel’s Director of Sales & Marketing, Ms.Francisca Thorogood. The hotel boasts a prominent spot in central Hanoi, between West Lake and the Red River. Its 317 tastefully-decorated rooms with large windows provide panoramic views of the city. It’s also the only five-star hotel in the capital to feature a fitness center with an all-weather swimming pool and spa.

One Korean-style hotel in the capital is the Lotte Hotel Hanoi in Ba Dinh district. The hotel considers itself to be “connecting the rich cultural history of the past and the promising future of Hanoi”. It’s true that each of the hotel’s guest rooms The Guide Team visited had an elegant and modern feel. Generous proportions create a sense of calm and space, with breathtaking views over Hanoi and, in some of the luxury rooms, of the Red River, West Lake, and Ba Vi Mountain.

With 154 well-appointed rooms and suites, the Movenpick Hotel Hanoi combines elegant, French-colonial architecture with superior facilities and outstanding service.

Conveniently located in the heart of Hanoi’s CBD and a short distance from the historic Old Quarter, the Movenpick is a beautifully serene, boutique-style property and luxury residence catering to discerning corporate travelers.

“Most hotels claim to be ‘different’ and ‘special’ but this is integral to the Movenpick philosophy, and we have taken it to still another level here,” said Mr. Nicolas Josi, the hotel’s General Manager since February.

Technology is in a very rapid stage of development in the hotel industry. “We are constantly adapting to change and striving towards new trends, which give us the opportunity to be as competitive as possible,” he said. Its digital adaption has been in terms of social connectivity and the use of smart technology systems to operate and manage the hotel effectively and bolster guest satisfaction.

“Just recently, we were the first hotel in Vietnam to implement the Opera Cloud V9 platform,” he went on. “This new system provides critical business intelligence insights to our marketing and revenue management teams and drives decision making. It allows an analysis of guests’ needs and trends, which can be used to enhance the guest experience, encourage return visits, and improve direct bookings and the hotel’s operations. We have also improved our entire wi-fi and solutions with ‘Wi-Fi Everywhere’ and a unified branded guest login process throughout all properties of Movenpick Hotels and Resorts. ‘Wi-Fi Everywhere’ also allows guests to work or socialize anywhere in the hotel.”

Vietnam’s hospitality sector has moved in different ways and is in constant change. The country remains behind many others in terms of digitalization and innovation but change and adaptation continue. Mr. Josi is optimistic that the future will be very healthy and that innovative growth will close the gap with the regional competition.

The two final destinations in Hanoi for The Guide Team were the five-starMeliáHanoi Hotel in the downtown area and the recently-opened Novotel Suites Hanoi in the newlyestablished business center in Cau Giay district.

The only five-star hotel owned by Spain’s Meliá Hotels & Resorts in Hanoi, the 22-year-old Meliá has hosted a range of significant regional and international events thanks to its multi-sized conference rooms, which total 2,975 sq m in space. The hotel has recently renovated all of its 306 guest rooms, which are now equipped with the latest facilities in a comfortable and luxurious ambience and a color palette of light beige and dark brown.

Novotel Suites Hanoi is the very first Novotel Suites in Asia to deliver comfortable stays for both short and longterm guests, especially business clients. It also offers personalized features, in support of Novotel’s well-known family program. “Guests are able to create their own special world, blending the warm and friendly feel of home,” said a representative from the hotel. “The hotel offers a new experience for guests in Hanoi for business and also for their families when staying for the long term.”

In step with the Digital World

Nha Trang

The sapphire Nha Phu Lagoon appeared out the window among a green carpet of mountains and hills and villages. Everyone in The Guide Awards Team felt a cool escape in this coastal strip of Khanh Hoa province, eventhoughwewerehere onbusiness. Setting out by taxi from Cam Ranh International Airport, the marvels ofthe area were soon revealed.Everything along the roadside was pale, as if someone had poured white sugar on the whole area. “Sand”, the driver told us, adding that Cam Ranh used to be crystal-sand mine, with estimated reserves of over 60 million tons per year, and was an important material for high-quality glassware all over Asia.

Things have changed so much in Nha Trang over the years, with giant sand hills replaced by large modern hotels, condotels, and resort projects. New luxurious resorts in Cam Ranh Bay, meanwhile, include The Anam Resort, Fusion Resort, Duyen Ha Resort, Cam Ranh Riviera Beach Resort & Spa, and the soon-to-be-opened Movenpick Cam Ranh luxury resort.

We decided to visit a couple of hotels in the center of Nha Trang first and then head to Cam Ranh on our second and final day.

Our first destination was the Sunrise Nha Trang Beach Hotel & Spa on Tran Phu Street. The 14-year-old five-star hotel used to be the biggest and mostluxurious in town, with 125 sea-facing rooms and suites with private balconies offering a gorgeous view over Nha Trang Bay. It also has a funky Roman-style swimming pool with high pillars and curved domes and hotel rooms with a Jacuzzi on the balcony.

Next we visited Novotel Hotel, where General Manager Mr. Remi Faubel told us its guests are largely from South Korea, Europe, China and Vietnam. “The majority book directly through online travel agents (OTAs) such as booking.com, agoda.com, and expedia.com, and more recently via the AccorHotels mobile app,” he explained. The trend towards online hotel bookings has been around for a few years, he added, with guests switching from tablet and PCs to smartphones. “Each Accor hotel used to have their own channel for promotions and taking reservations,” Mr. Faubel said. “It was complicated and made it difficult for travelers. The introduction of the AccorHotels mobile app is a major step forward in our digital marketing plans.”

When guests wish to come to a certain place, he went on, they need only open the app and find information on the destination. All Accor hotels, including Novotel, Mercure, and Sofitel, are introduced on the app and guests won’t have to spend time seeking a travel agent or searching on Google. They can also compare different Accor hotels in the same destination, such as in Nha Trang, where it has hotels under the Novotel and ibis Style brands.

Our next stop was a relatively new four-star hotel - Queen Ann Nha Trang Hotel. Officially opened in July last year, itfeatures 284 rooms equipped with modern amenities and classified into five different categories: Deluxe, Premier, Executive, Suite, and Family, with sizes ranging from 30 to 71 sq m. Getting off the main street of Tran Phu, we went to Hung Vuong Street where Galina Hotel & Spa and ibis Styles Nha Trang are located. Galina offers accommodation, spas, and mud baths and the owner, the Hai Dang Group, also offers entertainment such as Vietnamese dance performances. The “Hoa Dat Viet Galina Show”, for example, is performed daily at A Chau Theater.

ibis Styles Nha Trang is the first in Vietnam under the ibis brand. “We are a lifestyle hotel with cheap prices, beautifully designed to meet the tastes of the young,” said Mr. Edouard Lallemand, Director of ibis Styles Nha Trang. “Compared to some five-star hotels, our prices are much lower but the level of comfort is equal.” The hotel is run and managed by Accor, one of the leading hotel management groups in the world, and changes are always anticipated in the digital transformation era.

“We have an effective portal for information technology,” Mr. Lallemand went on. “Accor collects all information customers around the world need to provide the best service. This is called ACDC- AccorCustomerDigitalCard- andis the most outstanding technology Accor has applied this year.”

Also excited about the use of digital technology to improve the quality of service, a representative from Alana Hotel, a four-star private hotel the Team also visited, said it is keen to stay abreast of new trends. Mr. Nguyen Duy Khoi, Alana Hotel’s Sales Director, said it is implementing a small project using modern technology to serve guests better and which will help the hotel ease the pressure on staff by transferring guests’ communication to software. The software includes language translations, helping guests provide advice on the services they require, such as food, accommodation, or laundry.

In the project, guests will be provided a phone at checkin, with the service set pre-installed. Whenever they go outside, they can communicate with hotel staff via the device. The software also manually changes the language used. For example, a Chinese customer can send a message in Chinese asking where to eat, and the hotel staff receive the translated information in Vietnamese. When the reply is made in Vietnamese, it is translated into Chinese.

“I believe this software will be very useful for hotels in the future,” said Mr. Khoi. “Once proven successful it will be deployed at other hotels in Nha Trang, in the hope of enhancing the destination’s image.” He expects the project to be deployed in the hotel by the end of this year and then used by other hotels in Nha Trang next year.

Among the other hotels the Team visited were Sheraton Nha Trang Hotel & Spa, Champa Island Nha Trang, and Duyen Ha Resort Cam Ranh.

The Sheraton was the firstfive-star hotel in the beach city and has business travelers in mind, with every room including the latest technology, such as audio-visual and presentation-enabled TVs. Duyen Ha Resort Cam Ranh is a non-smoking five-star resort with a premier location on one of the most gorgeous beaches in the area, Bai Dai Beach.

In step with the Digital World

Da Nang

Leaving Nha Trang and flying to Da Nang, The Guide Awards Team planned to combine visits to several new destinations, including the Golden Bridge in Ba Na Hills, with inspections of recently-opened resorts in the central coastal city. Due to time limits, however, we only completed half of what we planned.

Four Points by Sheraton is the latest under the leading Marriott brand, which has nearly 400 hotels named Four Points by Sheraton worldwide and Four Points by Sheraton Danang is the first in Vietnam.

Our next stop was the four-star Diamond Sea Danang. Located on the main street of Vo Nguyen Giap, the hotel has been in operation since March 2015. “Our OTA bookings have been relatively steady for the past few years and remain over 60 per cent of our room nights sold,” said General Manager Mr. Jamy Van Den Berg. “At the same time, we have noticed a shift in our former ‘traditional’ travel agent partners, in which most have significantly expanded their own operations to online with dedicated online divisions.”

Industry 4.0, he believes, will dramatically change the way guests make travel decisions and arrangements. “With artificial intelligence seeing rapid improvements in the handling of the enormous amount of data available, I am confident that the hospitality industry in a few years from now will use new metrics of which we are currently unaware and there will be more insights into guests’ decisionmaking and requirements,” he said. “We have implemented numerous new technologies to benefit guests’ experience while staying at the hotel. Nearly all of the technologies we use are focused on improving and increasing communication with our guests.” The translation tools in the hotel’s Front Office ensure language barriers are reduced and essential information is better provided to guests to improve the hotel’s service levels.

Sheraton Grand Danang Resort is one of the best places in Da Nang for MICE services, provided by Marriott Hospitality. Its 3,300 sq m of innovative function and prefunction spaces allow for seamless meetings, weddings or any social event and its 258 stylish guestrooms all feature the Sheraton Signature Sleep Experience.

Centara Sandy Beach Resort is a four-star resort located on Non Nuoc Beach. The resort is a superb destination where forested mountains and tropical gardens share the landscape with a pristine stretch of fine white sand and clear ocean waters. “Here at Centara Sandy Beach we use a lot of OTAs, but with China now being the major tourist source marketin the region, WeChatis very big for us,” said General Manager Mr. Lucke Benbow. “We also use our online strengths through TripAdvisor and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Viber and Line.”

The resort’s online partners all book directly through its fast booking system. In August, 31 per cent of bookings were made online and 26 per cent of those came through its website and only 5 per cent through agoda.com.

“Vietnam is a little bit behind some other countries in the region at the moment but we are catching up very quickly, and technology is changing every day,” Mr. Benbow said. “I think we’re about 12 or 18 months away from being on par with the likes of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.”

Other hotels in Da Nang the Team visited were Mandila Beach Hotel Danang, which has been open since June 2017 and has 130 guest rooms and two luxury-serviced apartments, Belle Maison Prosand, Grand Tourane Danang, and New Orient Hotel. Grand Vrio Ocean Resort was the last destination we visited in the city, which opened in October 2017 and is invested and managed by a Japanese corporation.

In step with the Digital World

Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam is rising in popularity as a tourist destination in Southeast Asia and Ho Chi Minh City is among the most desirable stops for visitors. It remains the most popular city in Vietnam, with nearly 5 million international arrivals last year.

Government investment in infrastructure will improve overall connectivity, providing better conditions for investors to build hotels. In the next two years, the city’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport will increase its capacity to 38 million passengers. More direct flights from Russia, Hong Kong, South Korea and even the US will take to the skies to meet rising demand.

The Guide Awards Team first paid a visit to Silverland Hospitality. A privately-owned hotel group with hotels from three to four stars, it has hotels conveniently located in District 1. Silverland Hospitality has a history of more than two decades, since 1996, and has a chain of eight hotels: The Myst Dong Khoi, Silverland Charne Hotel, Grand Silverland Hotel & Spa, Silverland Yen Hotel, Silverland Sakyo Hotel & Spa, Silverland Jolie Hotel & Spa, Silverland Central Hotel, and Silverland Sil Hotel & Spa. Each focuses on different customers by nationality, such as Japanese, South Korean, or European, providing various types of services.

We chose The Myst Dong Khoi as our review venue. The hotel opened in 2017 and is of four-star standard. A “green oasis within the city”, the hotel features 108 guest rooms in four categories: Dong Khoi, Saigon City, Verdant Calm, and Serene Corner, and two suites: Saigon Signature Suite and The Myst Suite.

Fronting the scenic Saigon River and just a five-minute walk from the famous Ho Chi Minh City Opera House and shopping, dining and entertainment options on Dong Khoi Street and Le Thanh Ton Street, Lotte Legend Hotel Saigon has a breathtaking resort-style setting and a distinctive interior that lends a feeling of luxury and tranquility.

In step with the Digital World

Phu Quoc Island

Phu Quoc Island had almost no position on Vietnam’s tourism map in 2010, but eight years later and it’s a completely different story. Traffic infrastructure has been upgraded or built, leading to the arrival of a large number of world-class resort names such as JW Marriott, InterContinental, Novotel, Radisson Blu, and Nam Nghi. Phu Quoc is now referred to as an “island paradise” by international media.

The first stop for The Guide Awards Team was the fourstar Lahana Resort Phu Quoc. Boasting a high standard of eco-friendly natural greenery and located on a hill-top in the heart of Phu Quoc Island, Lahana covers nearly 2 ha and provides a spacious retreat with a large outdoor infinity swimming pool and a restaurant with panoramic views, and is surrounded by protected forest. Spectacular views of either the ocean or the mountains are enjoyed from the resort and all accommodation is naturally decorated and boast private terraces.

Next was Dusit Princess Moonrise Beach Resort, owned by Thailand’s Dusit International Group. The resort is centrally located on Phu Quoc Island’s stunning western coastline, with a mix of contemporary resort lifestyles and charming Vietnamese hospitality. Its collection of contemporary rooms and suites offer gorgeous ocean and garden views.

The Team could easily have stayed here longer to explore and admire the beauty of this peaceful oasis. With time pressing, though, we headed to The Palmy Phu Quoc Resort & Spa. On Duong To Beach, the 160 sea view-room resort features architecture designed in harmony between East and West and modern equipment. As well as a fitness center, an outdoor infinity swimming pool, a kids’ club, and an on-site shop, diving and snorkeling and other water sports and beach games are also on offer.

Next to the The Palmy is the four-star Eden Resort Phu Quoc, with 166 luxurious rooms and bungalows in a fresh and unconventional contemporary design that preserves its Vietnamese heritage while offering outstanding comfort and luxury just steps from the white beaches and ocean. The resort also has two meeting rooms equipped with the latest audiovisual equipment and can cater to up to 160 guests at a time.

Another interesting destination on the island is The Shells Resort & Spa, where a contemporary yet minimal design is driven by a shell-shaped concept that is open and harmonious with nature. The Shells boasts a serene and peaceful landscape where nature and people are at one and where “hustle and bustle” isn’t even in the dictionary.

Recently becoming one ofthe “most-wanted destinations on Phu Quoc” among young local and international travelers, JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay embodies the academic narrative across its enriching experience in true luxury. “The interesting things that attract young travelers to the resort lie not only in the unique and fabulous design of the resort’s architecture that offers unlimited beautiful corners for selfie or wefie, but also the fictional narrative of a mythical academy oflearning - Lamarck University,” said one young and hip Vietnamese tourist we met atthe resort.

The final destination on Phu Quoc for The Guide Awards Inspection Team was the newly opened “truly five-star international standard” InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort. Describing itself as “where island luxury meets heartfelt charm”, the resort offers unparalleled luxury and refinement on the island. The resort features a range of private low-rise and Sky Tower accommodation, many with landscaped gardens, patios, direct access to white sandy beaches, and magical daily sunsets.

“We value the impact and efficiency of digital transformation on the way we connect with our clients as well as in accessing new markets,” said Mr. Piero Alexandro Bellizi, General Manager at InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort. The average rate of bookings through OTA channels is up about 20 per cent and now accounting for 30 per cent of the resort’s bookings.

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