Industry stakeholders remain positive about the future of international MICE,
whilst honing new knowledge on the domestic corporate market.
Story by Jim Selkin
A short while ago, the prospects for a gradual return to international tourism seemed clear. However, a recent new wave of Covid variant has thrown the picture somewhat out of focus. Needless to say, the situation remains fluid but that has not deterred the plans of hotels or DMCs throughout the country catering to the MICE market.
From a DMC perspective, we spoke with companies who specialize in this segment. Linh Le, founder of Saigon based, Regional DMC Group Luxperia Collective, imparted “We have successfully adapted to domestic tourism including the delivery of MICE events and retreats for locally based corporates across Vietnam.” Linh added, “Like others, we too saw a heart-breaking amount of business reduced since March 2020. We knew our service and knowledge could be re-imagined and re-purposed for domestic corporates. For 15 months now, we staged events and have formed wonderful new relationships that continue to grow and prosper and carry over when travel again picks up”.
Linh Le, Founder Luxperia
Nick Wade, General Manager of Khiri Travel and John Tue Nguyen, Founder/CEO of Trails of Indochina, both with extensive MICE experience, sounded more cautionary notes.
Wade intoned, “Crystal balling" is not a great planning method, but for now, it's all we have. If you'd asked me six to nine months ago, I would have whole-heartedly said that the first travel allowed back into Vietnam would be small MICE group travel from safe bubbles set up within the South East Asian region. That does also mean that Vietnam is likely to be far more cautious in opening up, however it
may lend itself to MICE groups. The groups travel together, eat together, sleep in the same hotels, and do day excursions together. MICE groups are easier to control as they generally stay short term and go straight to the venue and remain there. Compare that to 50 couples arriving into Hanoi and then dispersing across the country in all directions.”
John Nguyen looked beyond the immediate region to North America and Europe, where most of the company’s MICE groups originate. In principle, he agreed with Wade’s group philosophy of control. But from a pragmatic standpoint, pointed out that “Companies draw their incentive people from across a country not just one city. Thus, uniform guidelines and precautions will have to be taken to ensure the group’s safety. However, with longer planning times, I do see this segment rebounding faster than others.”
Quyhn Nguyen, CEO of Hanoi based, VietnamNow Travel, with both international and domestic MICE clientele, points out that “While domestic groups will initially drive the recovery, prices should be very competitive for all clients as companies look to entice clients to our shores. Another advantage is that Vietnam has diverse locations, supporting hotels, good infrastructure and unique activities to establish it as the MICE center for SE Asia.”
Quynh Nguyen, CEO Vietnam Now Travel
With several hotels in the pipeline and creative new MICE packages at established properties, Vietnam will be ready to welcome event delegates when travel resumes.
From the hotel perspective, a number of majors have been continuing projects in the pipeline or taking the time to formulate new MICE Programs.
Kate Jones, Area Director of Public Relations/Vietnam for Minor Hotels told me, “From a meetings perspective, Vietnam has good regulations in place overall and will be ready to welcome international MICE travel back. We have handled domestic MICE business over the past 12 months, so we are still focused on this aspect of travel.” She added, “While we may see some different dynamics in terms of requirements from regional and international business travellers, we are well placed to adapt to changing needs and preferences in all our Anantara and Avani hotels and resorts throughout the country.
Their unique addition is the luxury train carriage, The Vietage. Jones went on to explain, “The Vietage has only 12 seats and, being the first of its kind in the country, it has quite an exclusive feel. Running between Hoi An and Quy Nhon, we can do exclusive buyouts for the carriage, so this can be perfect for smaller groups or private parties.”
Interior of the Vietage luxury train carriage. Photo courtesy of Minor Hotels.
“While Fusion Hotel Group focuses on a health and wellness inspired lifestyle, Fusion Suites Vung Tau has conference facilities with capacity up to 240 guests” stated Marketing Director, Ms. Minh Thu. “It offers stylish conference and function spaces for small groups with 2 meeting rooms and a reception foyer. Those who look for intimate company events, birthday or anniversary celebrations, Fusion Suites Vung Tau will be an ideal venue with a professional event planner on board to assist at all times.”
Conference facility at Fusion Suites Vung Tau. Photo courtesy of Fusion Hotels.
According to Xavier Cappelut, Vice President Operations – Accor Vietnam, “Many of our corporate clients prepare for MICE activities from 6-12 months in advance and they are showing great interest in new destinations within the country that offer immersive cultural experiences. This allows their guests to engage in meaningful leisure activities, complimented by the world-class hospitality services that Accor properties offer. Our hotels under development will offer state-of-the-art meeting facilities, such as Novotel Dong Nai, Pullman Hai Phong or MGallery Nghe An, with capacities allowing for events as large as 1,000 guests.”
Boardroom, Pullman Hai Phong (above). Lobby, Pullman Hai Phong (above).
Photos courtesy of Accor.
He added, “Beside corporate events and meetings, we also see an increasing number of social activities such as marathons or boat races in emerging destinations that offer breath-taking natural beauty. Our hotels are leveraging this rising trend to partner with event organisers and offer attractive packages for events attendees.”
A spokesperson also added that the MGallery-Hotel des Artists, Saigon has a roof-top bar that accommodates parties of up to 150 people with panoramic views over the city. Their meeting rooms are also equipped with the latest technologies blending with their elegant surroundings.
Rooftop bar setting at the MGallery Hotel des Arts, Saigon. Photo courtesy of Accor.
“At InterContinental Saigon we believe there is plenty of reason for optimism about the future of the MICE market into Vietnam” according to Chris Hallett, Director of Sales & Marketing for the hotel. He continued, “We expect to see ‘trust’ – in your Brand, in your product, in your people – to be a key theme through the coming post-pandemic years.
Main ballroom InterContinental Saigon. Photo courtesy of IHG.
Also, flexibility around bookings is going to be crucial as travel patterns may continue to be disrupted; InterContinental Saigon is part of the global IHG ‘Meet With Confidence’ programme which gives reassurance and confidence to our partners that we can provide this flexibility.”
Hallett concluded, “Whilst there will certainly be the ability to run ‘hybrid’ events with a blend of remote and in-person delegates, we do also believe the current pandemic will reinforce, and indeed strengthen the desire to connect in-person again.”