Vietnam’s premier beach city Nha Trang, listed as one of the world’s most beautiful bays, is emerging as a strategic MICE getaway.
Story by SAMANTHA COOMBER
All components are in place for Nha Trang city, located on Vietnam’s South-eastern coast and 441 kilometres north of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), to rise as a prominent regional MICE destination – albeit slowly.
“Nha Trang’s emergence as a MICE destination is real and for good reason, offering a venue that appeals to contemporary business culture,” Debbie Chee stated as the former director of sales and marketing (DoSM) for Sheraton Nha Trang.
“Toss in the region’s long-standing geographic beauty and cultural attractions, and you’ve got an ideal getaway for corporate outings and events.”
As Khanh Hoa Province’s capital, Nha Trang is long established as one of Vietnam’s premier beach vacation spots and fastest-growing destinations, popular with popular with both foreign and domestic visitors. Its seven-kilometre-long municipal beach, sandwiched between soaring mountains and off-shore islands, lies in a bay officially ranked in 2003 as the “29th member of the World’s Most Beautiful Bays Club”.
Nha Trang boasts the country’s highest coral reef biodiversity and abundant marine life, and some of Vietnam’s best diving spots, excellent seafood restaurants, diverse cultural attractions and downtown only a short distance from the beach. Additionally, Nha Trang offers a range of group activities from therapeutic mud baths to bamboo basket boats.
With metropolises HCMC and Hanoi suffering worsening traffic and congestion, traffic and congestion, coastal destinations offering greater scenic value offering greater scenic value and space, served by domestic airports, seem to be the way forward for Vietnam’s MICE market – including Nha Trang, a 40-minute flight from HCMC served by Cam Ranh International Airport (35 kilometres away).
“Nha Trang is the hot beach destination for domestic MICE and corporate groups and also for specific international groups, such as Australia and Russia,” Sheraton Nha Trang DoSM Mandy Tran Thi My Dung states. “Particularly, incentive market clients now choose HCMC and Nha Trang.”
Rooms with views
Well-equipped hotels are often key to successful MICE business in Vietnam. Opened in 2008, the 342-room Diamond Bay Resort located between Cam Ranh Airport and Nha Trang made the first in-road with a 7000-pax convention centre, 1782-square-metre Banquet Hall, conference rooms, two private beaches suitable for team-building events, and Nha Trang’s first 18-hole course. The same year saw the launch of four-star Novotel Nha Trang with its 200-square-metre sea-view Bellevue Meeting Room.
“[Our] MICE business constitutes around 6-8 per cent of business from mostly domestic and Asian markets,” DoSM Nguyen Thuy states. However, Nha Trang’s first internationally-branded five-star hotel Sheraton Nha Trang is still the biggest MICE player in town. Since opening in 2010, it has established itself as a top-class MICE venue with some of Vietnam’s most impressive meeting facilities.
The 30-storey, 284-room flagship hotel, located downtown along the beachfront promenade, has helped elevate this provincial city’s appeal as a MICE destination.
“Sheraton offers the biggest MICE facilities in town,” Ms Tran states. “Our MICE market constitutes approximately 30 per cent of total business, mainly meetings, conferences and international incentives from local corporate groups and Australia.”
There are nine meeting rooms with 1600 square metres of flexible function and meeting space. The pillar-less 340-square-metre Grand Ballroom and bay-facing 401-square-metre Yersin Ballroom are both divisible and provide a natural-light foyer area, along with 11 breakout rooms all backed by advanced audio-visual and telecommunications. The 28th floor Altitude, the city’s highest bar, allows for sky-high cocktail-and-canapés functions, while themed dinners can be hosted on the sixth storey pool side. In addition, a new four-day itinerary schedule, including Vietnam’s first purpose-built in-hotel cooking school, is available for incentive groups.
North of the city in Turtle Bay, the all-new luxury resort Amiana offers six meeting rooms and two ocean terraces, and room for group activities from its cooking school, watersports centre and golf driving range.
Off Nha Trang’s coastline, Hon Tre Island is dominated by VinPearl Land, a massive entertainment-accommodation-tourism complex complete with a 5000-seater amphitheatre, and accessible via boat or via Vietnam’s first sea-crossing cable car. Vinpearl Resort, with an event hall (accommodates 1350 guests) and a divisible grand ballroom, is joined by Vinpearl Luxury Nha Trang, a new resort with 84 suites and villas and an IMG-designed 18-hole championship course.
Among future developments is IHG’s Crowne Plaza, which is delayed infinitely but may be upgraded to an InterContinental; the 21-storey Star City opening late 2013 promising “condotel” units and events facilities; and a UAE-backed Vietnamese-Swiss joint venture behind a massive six-star resort-villa project in north Cam Ranh peninsula.
BEST Western International’s (BWI) Hon Tam Resort is now accompanied by the five-star BEST Western Premier Hon Tam Resort & Residences with meeting rooms and a 900-pax outdoor venue. There is a new three-star Best Western Sea & Sun downtown and a recently-opened Best Western Premier Havana along the beach promenade. At 41 storeys with over 1000 rooms, the latter is considered Vietnam’s largest five-star and first “condotel”, with event facilities such as a fourth floor 1500-seat restaurant, multi-sized meeting rooms, the Sky Bar Restaurant and a duplex VIP Lounge Club on the top floor next to a helipad.