Each year, more cruise ships dock at Vietnam’s major ports and bring high-end travelers to the country.
These luxury cruises are excellent examples of lavish travel, a growing part of the tourism sector in recent years in Vietnam, but still representing but a small a portion of the millions of international tourists coming to the country every year.
According to Pham Ha, chief executive and founder of Luxury Travel Ltd. (Vietnam’s first luxury tour and travel operator and most successful luxury travel brand in the country) the company served more than 5,000 of the 10,000 high-end travelers to Indochina in 2012.
The Deputy Prime Minister, French ministers, the Omani royal family and ministers of Oman, as well as ambassadors of many countries were among the VIP guests of the company.
As Pham points out, cost of an average lavish tour ranges from US$2,500 to US$3,500 per person for a seven-day tour. Many of these tours are priced at over US$1,000 per day per visitor.
In 2013, Luxury Travel Ltd expects a 30% growth, as “High-end travelers still have money and time, and they can travel even during the financial crisis,” said Pham.
The services are often linked with MICE tourism which involves the organization of meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions, serving customers who come to Vietnam for business but would like to enlist their time for some exquisite, relaxing travel as well.
As the MICE “tigers” of Southeast Asia, such as Singapore or Malaysia, have maxed out their venue capacity, and Laos and Cambodia still have not quite hit their potential, Vietnam is becoming the MICE hub of Asia for both regional and global MICE visitors.
In late December 2012, Luxury Travel Group Ltd also announced its top five high-end travel trends in the Vietnam tourism industry for 2013, including multi-generational family travel, wellness and spa trips, active vacations, river cruises and customized travel.
In recent years, Vietnam has begun to catch up in terms of wellness and spa innovation, embracing spa culture with a wide selection of resorts and day spas that are equal to any in the world. Many world class golf courses have also recently opened, making Vietnam a golf destination as well.
According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), although experiencing a turbulent year with economic difficulties, the Vietnamese tourism industry still achieved positive results with 6.8 million international arrivals in 2012, an increase of nearly 14% compared to 2011.
In terms of travel purposes, in 2012, 14% more visitors came to Vietnam for tourism and leisure and 16% more visited Vietnam for business, compared to 2011.
Vietnam has received rave reviews for the beauty of many of its destinations, including the UNESCO-recognized cultural and natural heritage sites.
In early December 2012, the travel and tourism professional association, the United States Tour Operators Association, voted Vietnam the 2nd most popular emerging destination in 2013, topped only by Myanmar and followed by India and Peru.
The famous luxury Travel and Leisure Magazine has listed Vietnamese hotels and resorts as among the Top 500 of the World’s Best Hotels, including: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, the Nam Hai in Hoi An and Park Hyatt Saigon.
“The beauty of our Vietnam luxury tours is the first hand knowledge and excellent service of local travel experts. Our trips been carefully designed to capture the crème de la crème and allowing you to really experience the culture, flow smoothly from place to place, and allow time for relaxation. Itineraries can be modified to suit your tastes, time frame, budget, and special interests. You can stay at the world’s best hotels,” said Pham Ha, founder and CEO of Luxury Travel Ltd.
For 2013, the director of Luxury Travel projected: “We are seeing interest in the An Lam Ninh Van Bay villas near Nha Trang, Hyatt Regency Da Nang, Intercontinental Da Nang Resort, Fusion Maia Resort Hoi An, Ana Mandara Hue, Emeralda Ninh Binh.”
“The next upcoming destination in Vietnam is the archipelago of Con Dao, where Six Senses has developed a resort. It is a 45 minute flight from HCMC and offers the most beautiful islands and settings in Vietnam,” said Pham.
Lavish tourism may account for a small market share but is a profitable sector. Nowadays, luxury tourism is all about experiences, privacy, intimacy and uniqueness. High-end travelers expect to “enjoy a program that gets them off the tourist trail and into the real Vietnam.”
Many have moved towards a quieter understated luxury and plan their trips with a focus on authenticity and experiential travel, focused on enriching once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
For travel experts, it is essentially about creating a package that is personal as well as authentic and memorable. With so many new experiences on offer, it’s the stories travelers can tell afterwards that confer status.