Vietnam News

Vietnam’s hotels get creative to survive the pandemic

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The tourism industry in Vietnam, like the rest of the world, suffered a seismic blow in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It also forced some in the industry to rethink their approach to how to cater to guests and innovate their offerings. 

One such innovation was developed at Alma Resort on the shores of Can Ranh Bay in southern Vietnam, which built its own in-house app to create a safe, contactless way of delivering key information to guests. Developed by the resort’s IT team and available for download on Android, Apple, Windows and Amazon devices, the ‘Alma Resort’ app provides Covid-19 health and safety tips, menus for the property’s restaurants, activity schedules and promotions as well as live stream broadcasts and information about events.

The resort’s general manager, Herbert Laubichler-Pichler, said he believed it would soon be incumbent for five-star resorts across Vietnam to offer the same technology. “There is no facet of our lives that remains untouched by this pandemic and under the new normal, this app is an effective and contactless way to connect with guests and staff.” 

Oddly enough, the idea for the app was put forward in a heads-of-department meeting and came from the resort’s executive chef. Laubichler-Pichler directed his team to search for an existing hotel-related app that could be adapted to their needs, but finding nothing suitable, the hotel created it themselves in only two months. 

The decision to roll the technology out so quickly was made by the necessity of helping the hotel and its guests feel more secure during the pandemic, he said. “We could have decided to keep developing, developing or just release it and then upgrade it as we went along, so we decided to do that.”

Domestic tourism the new lifeline

Vietnam reached an all-time high of 18 million international visitors who generated about $40 billion in revenue in 2019, and the sector looked set to reach the government’s goal of it becoming a key plank in the national economy. 

All of that, however, went over a cliff between late January 2020, when flights from certain Covid hot spots were suspended, and April, when a total lockdown was enforced. From January to November that year, the country saw only 3.8 million international arrivals, down some 77%. To date, Vietnam is still not accepting any international tourist arrivals.

Because of these measures, Vietnam was one of the world’s leading countries in controlling the spread of the pandemic and opened up opportunities many high-end tourism properties had, if not overlooked, paid scant attention to: the burgeoning Vietnamese middle class. 

Domestic tourism, and the steadily growing purchasing power of Vietnamese consumers, came to be viewed as a lifeline for a desperately struggling industry, provided it could change its strategy in some key areas. One such example was in the food and beverage offerings. At Alma, a flagship restaurant was transitioned from a Mediterranean theme to a fresh seafood barbecue menu, while two burger and ice cream outlets in the property’s food court were reincarnated as a Vietnamese noodle soup stall. 

“In a way, we were fortunate in that we were able to use the April shutdown to re-tool things,” Laubichler-Pichler said. He also credited the resort’s timeshare model and focus on room formats that can accommodate extended families (Vietnamese travelers often holiday in three- or even four-generational groups) for helping to weather the Covid storm. 

Looking forward, the veteran hotelier predicted there would be a strong rebound in the Vietnamese tourism sector because of the pent-up demand for travel after a year spent in various forms of isolation.

“It is like if you don’t eat chocolate for a year, and now you want to eat all the chocolate you can,” Laubichler-Pichler said, “but hotels need to start getting ready now to get ahead of that demand.”

By Brett Davis – Forbes – March 16, 2021

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