What are the current global trends? What do investors mostly focus on: the congress sphere, apartment hotels or any other type of accommodation? Are these trends applicable to Vietnam?
We see a lot of companies that start to look into hotel combined with Condotel at the same time, operating side by side under the same brand. So a part is a classic hotel, the other part is residences. That is not necessarily a new trend but seems to be a global trend and it is really going fast in Vietnam.
We can also see the co-working space as another global trend at the moment. The crucial requirements for an effective congress or meeting are less travel, more efficiently, saving time and cost.
The trend that we see in Vietnam is that there are a lot of leisure destinations that are getting very busy in terms of room supply. So we have to be very mindful of having something else to offer, it is not just accommodation or an airport for people to fly to that chosen place, but to really have a “destination“ within the destination. We can see the example of Bana Hill in Da Nang. They have built a entertainment park right where the hotel is located and created some landmarks around that mountain and it works. So then it goes to some group to really have a vision and to be able to invest adequately in not just running hotels but to create a stamp, some landmarks, monuments or activities, that make people want to visit.
Moreover, we should be absolutely green again, focusing on sustainability. There should be more electrical cars in Vietnam, especially in these destinations. And we also have to be very careful not to harm the environment and everything we do should be Eco-friendly in the most optimal fashion.
What changes in the hotel world are most evident in the recent period? What is the role of technology in reshaping modern luxury spaces?
We are in a world of data, data mining. We still need to be mindful for people’s privacy, while at the same time making sure not to ask guests to repeat themselves all the time, what they want, what they prefer. We somehow have to manage to get all that preference information without invading guest privacy. So that is very delicate, but like I said, we are living in a world of personalized services, it‘s a world you are expected, it’s a world that we streamline the appropriation, to make it seems like there are less steps, we cut steps that are not necessary.
People do their groceries now in places where there is no clerk, as every stages are automatic. There is some reports of market trends, of a certain number of people that want to go where there is less human interaction. Unfortunately we become an impersonal world, spending too much time on our telephones rather than making conversation.
Therefore as a service providers in hospitality industry, we need to care and be close enough to the clients, but at the same time give them privacy. We have to be able to understand which guest does not want to talk too much or those who does not want to repeat himself. Guests can be puzzled that their devices seem to know everything but the hotelier cannot. would not accept the case where his telephone knows everything and then the hotelier cannot know.
That is why Accor group created the new lifestyle loyalty program named ALL (Accor Live Limitless), which will recognize, understand, cherish, communicate with and reward guests like never before. Accor has thousands of hotels around the world and so this new technology allows us to share guests preferences globally. Guests now can be recognized the first time they visit the property, global wise.
You can see many applications nowadays that can really craft your trip before you go and can become your virtual personal assistant. So the way hotels can make a difference is to create an emotional connection with their guests.
What are the biggest challenges for hotel industry in general and Hôtel des Arts Saigon in particular in Vietnam?
For Vietnam I would say for now is the airport traffic and the airport utilization ratio in Saigon and also in Hanoi is getting really high. So we all would like to welcome more visitors provided that they will be able to take flights. We are in a dire need to have our new and adapted infrastructure in place.
In the North, we have enlarged the roads in Hanoi and that is great, you can also see new bridges connecting the city center and the airport. As for Saigon, we are expecting the metro and a new airport development. All these infrastructure projects will help to make the business more conductive. Therefore, the challenge here would be one of infrastructure. For the time being, what we see is more and more hotels and businesses opening, then it becomes crucial that the infrastructure is built along side in real time.
What do you think about the future of boutique hotel? Will it be a big challenge to the traditional hospitality industry?
The future is bright for boutique hotels. Nowadays, there are less people who prefer large impersonal places. Everything becomes so personal these days. Even through voice recognition or digitalized process, the “A.I robot” is able to pick up guests’ feelings through their tone of voice, to depict whether it is negative or positive. It is the challenge that we have to do better than that as a human being.
And it is more challenging for larger hotels than boutique hotels. People want to go back to something more residential. The traditional hospitality industry is large, everything big, big restaurants, big rooms and big lobby… and now people got to the point that big is not necessarily better, that quantity is not as important as quality, so that also changed.
If you had to sum up 2019, how would you describe it in terms of the overall hospitality and travel industry?
2019 has been great for Vietnam. The world is down in general I would say, for the reasons we know. But I think Vietnam has a special status in South East Asia. Vietnam has earned a lot of respect from its neighbors as well as on the international scale. We have got recently the APEC summit in Da Nang, Trump and Kim visit in Hanoi, we have constantly some world focus happening. And we will have the Formula 1 in Hanoi in April 2020.
All these events are not new and not a surprise to me, it was just something waiting to happen, and it is happening because Vietnam has a very good label internationally. Vietnam is no longer a developing country but more becoming a new leading country, as per many expert predictions. According to a forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers in February 2017, Vietnam may be the fastest-growing of the world’s economies, with a potential annual GDP growth rate of about 5.1%, which would make its economy the 20th-largest in the world by 2050. We are not talking about a developing country anymore, but then the infrastructure needs to go at the same speed.
We all know and heard consistently lately about the Chinese and American trade-war, the Brexit in the UK, the tension in the Korean Peninsula to name a few… This is certainly slowing the momentum generally everywhere, in Vietnam as well, but probably less than other places, because we have fostered friends along the years. We like to be courteous with everyone while keeping our identity.
We draw conclusions from the past, we understood that building relationship and friendship is more important than isolating our-self from the world. Many countries want to invest in Vietnam because of that notion of respect. They assess the government to be stable and trustworthy; that the population is young and dynamic and a good ground to do business in Asia, in extremely favorable conditions.
I hope that we can keep the status of a “Switzerland of Asia“. Being neutral, being fair and being accommodating with a wise approach.
From your perspective, what is the key to managing disruption and challenges in hotel management?
It is to be disruptive your own self. It is not to watch the parade, you need to lead the parade. If you watch it then it is too late. In life you have to choose whether you are a spectator or an actor. If you are a spectator, the disruption will pass you by. You need to be informed, you need to network and you need to know what are the trends coming ahead your way and to be able to build those trends before others.
Regarding hotel management, we need to lead the parade, otherwise we will be missing completely the point and watch the show of others. In Vietnam it is very clear what will come next, there is tremendous potential in investment… We have very solid connections in Vietnam, many prominent investors trust Accor to be one of their top of mind business partner. That is why we are leading the marketplace of international hotels, and that is why we understand that we have a responsibility in Vietnam as well towards the people as our employees, our neighbors, stakeholders and towards our community.
Nowadays, being environment conscious is considered to be a must. Does Hôtel des Arts adapt to this trend, or do you have any other plan?
The young generations nowadays are truly concerned about the environment in particular and their own perspectives about everything in general. They can make their own statement out of sincerity, true passion and real care. The future is now and our clientele today needs to be respected. If we do not believe in full sincerity and responsibility in what we do and how we do it, this young generation will not come your way. To drive this effort, Accor launched Planet 21 in 2012 – an initiative that raises the standard on how the hotel industry approaches sustainability. It identifies a total of 21 commitments under seven pillars involving social, environmental and community aspects: Health, Nature, Carbon, Innovation, Local, Employment and Dialogue. Hôtel des Arts Saigon is proud to be part of this program and plays our part in sustaining the environment and in other CSR activities.
Art can be considered to be a unique point of Hôtel des Arts Saigon, which can be seen clearly from its own name. How do you convey this art aspect to the customers?
Vietnamese art is now getting known internationally and we are lucky with the name of the hotel, bringing a new spotlight on artistry. The hotel showcases carefully curated paintings and vintage art elements decorating its artsy environment.
Our discerning guests nowadays would expect more from the acclaimed artsy lifestyle boutique hotel like us. It is our mission to demonstrate different forms of arts that should imprint in guests’ memory through intangible and sensorial elements across the hotel, being an embassy for art aficionados.
Why does Hôtel des Arts Saigon attract a lot of lifestyle & art enthusiasts?
I think the reason is that guests also feel our genuine passion in everything we do. Our team love art and everything related to lifestyle sincerely, and not just in the mind set of being “art enthusiasts“. Art is very personal and it stimulates people’s senses.
With the high enthusiasm in collecting artworks, have you ever considered about running your own private gallery?
I would not do that as all art galleries open usually for commercial purposes. For me, I collect arts because I like it and it is more of my personal hobby. You would not want to be separated from things you have affection towards. Maybe in the future, if my financial condition allows, and more artworks are added to my current personal collections, my desire would be to contribute some of them to a museum or a proper place to pay tribute to the beautiful and diverse Vietnamese artistry.