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Is Eco-luxury tourism available in Vietnam?
When thinking of eco-friendly accommodation, many people picture flimsy tents, low-quality service, no amenities and slashing consumption. Luxury, by its very definition, means indulgence.
Yet, because luxury resorts are frequently located in the world’s most beautiful and delicate spots, a need for a conservation-minded and sustainable approach is growing fast.
Do Quang Hai, general manager of Flamingo Dai Lai Resort in Vinh Phuc province, says:
“The concept of ‘eco luxury travel’ is not easy to define in a sentence, but in my opinion, it implies the way to travel in the eco-luxury destination and an eco-place that gives tourists different feelings in the natural space, a special landscape and high-end infrastructure, whether they travel to a sunny tropical beach or forests in a temperate zone."
Le BiHan Ronan, general manager of Mango Bay Resort Phu Quoc, thinks eco luxury travel is the future of tourism for two reasons:
“Firstly, it is very trendy in Europe at the moment and people wish to pay more for it. Secondly, our planet needs it - we need to avoid mass destructive tourism. It is new in Vietnam, but it is such a green country with 2,000km of coast and wonderful forest. Eco-tourism could be big in Vietnam.”
Agreeing with Ronan, Anthony James Marrinan, general manager of InterContinental Sun Peninsula Danang Resort says that eco-luxury travel is the new tourism trend:
“It is not new around the world, as there are quite a number of resorts already famous for this concept, for example the CESiaK in the Caribbean coast. But for Vietnam’s market, not many people, or even hoteliers, are familiar with it. However, we are expecting some very positive change as the Vietnamese Government is now starting their Green Label for the hospitality industry.”
Olivier Petit, general manager of Chen Sea Resort & Spa Phu Quoc, Centara Boutique Collection also shares this view. Petit says: “Eco means to protect and remain natural, so it is sustainable.
Luxury implies a kind of limitless offer to make the guests feel great and fulfilled. So when they wish to give maximum luxury, it does not always mean eco follows. Another important point for Vietnam is the necessity to rethink the classification of the hotels so to recognise the small properties as potential partners of the development of luxury and eco-tourism. Small means it is easier to provide luxury within an eco-concept - it is way harder for larger properties.”
The concept, according to most experts, depends on each specific zone which needs to have a plan to build and set up the eco-luxury travel market. It is one of the modern ways to attract tourists. In Vietnam, nowadays tourism is developed en mass without any quality standards and only very few resorts have quality controls.
Eco at what cost?
Luxury is defined in different ways in each field; in the travel field, luxury stems from the landscape, the attitude to customers and service. “We have valuable landscapes and an impressive space that not many resorts in Vietnam have, with a building density of fewer than 10 per cent and green works such as bamboo wings,” says Hai, of Flamingo Dai Lai. “I think, it is worth investment because this field will be a trend in future, but every business wants success in this field - they must upgrade their services as well as their infrastructure.”
While some people think they have to pay more to create a real eco-luxury space for their hoteliers, Le BiHan Ronan at Mango Bay Resort, Phu Quoc, says not anymore. “It used to be so in the 80s. Now, luxury is access to what you can’t normally have. Everybody has AC and flat screen televisions in Europe. Guests are looking for relaxation, nature and friendly service.
That is luxury for them.” For his resort, any step of the management is eco-friendly. They have the concept because they believe in it. Therefore they push it as far as they can. “Everything at Mango Bay has to be done by respecting the local environment: the sea is protected, we don’t cut trees and we help the local population as much as we can,” he says.
At the moment, there are so many definitions of luxury. Olivier Petit of Chen Sea resort, says “It depends so much on the guests, their backgrounds, their expectations. For some it would be exclusivity, and for some it would be golden fixtures. There is one thing in common to any approach to luxury, however: detail. The concept has always been eco and upscale, comfortable and friendly.”
Travel companies do not stand apart. Many foreign and local travel agencies offer eco-tourism tours for their high-class clients and they gain great benefits from this trend, despite the world economic crisis. “We are operating small group trips in Nam Cat Tien National Park and we appreciate the importance of being beneficial rather than detrimental to the fragile eco-system that exists in the park,” says Pham Ha, CEO and founder of Luxury Travel Vietnam.
“We limit our groups to a maximum of ten people and stay in the newly built Forest Floor Lodge within the sanctuary and can opt for camping in the jungle. Inside the park you can trek, animal watch, ride bicycles and boat along the river and explore one of Vietnam’s as yet untouched treasures.”
A green future for Vietnam
Most experts agree that the future for this market segment is very bright. There is a broad desire among the general public to travel in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.
“There are a lot of possibilities. It is such a great country, everything is doable here. And Vietnam is at a stage now where it has got to protect itself by supporting smart development,” says Ronan.