As international brands enter, boutique hotels respond + rebrand
If the last year is any indication, Vietnam is no longer a hidden gem. International arrivals jumped 26% in 2016, bringing the number of tourists to more than 10 million for the first time in the country’s history. Hotel brands have been quick to react, and they’re betting on a taste for luxury.
The JW Marriott Phu Quoc, Emerald Bay opened this week with rooms starting at $400 USD per night touting private beaches, spa treatments, rainforest showers and a chance to learn Vietnamese martial arts. The rates are 20 times the country-wide average for standard rooms, which start at $20 USD, and 8 times that of standard luxury hotels.
The launch comes just three months after Four Seasons Resorts bought an all-villa beachfront resort in Hoi An, The Nam Hai, which boasts stand-alone villas with ocean views, garden showers and contemporary artwork. Some even offer private swimming pools. With single-bedroom villas starting at $482 USD per night, according to online searches, and 3-bedroom options reaching above $2,000, the resort will command some of the destination’s highest rates. But the growing presence of international brands, which also include Sofitel’s La Veranda Phu Quoc, has created opportunities for boutique hotels as well.
I Am Vietnam in Saigon, a chic design hotel popular among young travelers, has recently rebranded as Lief Hotel Saigon, announcing plans to develop more boutique properties throughout the country. Perks still include spa & wellness services, mobile phones, a rooftop bar, and include a chance to explore Saigon with a local. Rooms start at $125 per night.
The Chen Sea Resort & Spa, a luxury resort located along the same Phu Quoc beachfront as the JW Marriott, has responded to the increasing name-brand competition by holding true to its promises of privacy and intimacy. The boutique resort, founded by Italian vacationers who fell in love with the Phu Quac coast, boasts 1- to 3-bedroom private villas tucked away from public view. Guests enjoy jacuzzis, beach views, and subtle luxuries like bathrobes and slippers.
Meanwhile, even business hotels are honing luxe personas. The Movenpick Hotel Hanoi, traditionally a draw for corporate travelers with this city-center location and meeting space, was recently named “Best Luxury Boutique Hotel” in Southeast Asia by the World Luxury Hotel Awards, indicating a push even among utilitarian properties to indicate a chic vibe. The Movenpick plays up its proximity to Hanoi’s Old Quarter and nightlife scene, while offering ‘innovative culinary concepts,’ massage treatments and a wellness studio.
As interest in Vietnam travel rises, watch for more international hospitality brands along the Phu Quoc coast and an increase in boutique concept hotels — as well as perception makeovers among budget hotels — within Hanoi, Saigon and other major cities.