Tying the knot between tradition and modernity

08:00 | 18/02/2019
General manager of Crowne Plaza West Hanoi Hotel & Residences Barun Jolly talked to VIR’s Nhat Ha about how to marry Vietnamese traditions with contemporary hospitality in order to create unique and luxurious experiences for high-end tourists.
tying the knot between tradition and modernity
Having lived in Vietnam for several years and worked at Crowne Plaza West Hanoi since 2017, Barun Jolly has found life in the country very lively, energetic, and proactive. Each day he is fascinated by the unique Vietnamese ­culture, the people, and also traditional cuisine. He believes there is a lot to fall in love with in this beautiful country: from stunning beach towns and distinctive mountainside cities to the kind-hearted people and the wide range of diverse and delicious dishes available.

What is most important to you when you think about luxury?

The perception of luxury may vary in different industries, but I believe the essentials of luxury remain the same. To me, the most important thing in luxury is personalisation. The concept of giving a true sense of luxury lies in understanding what every single guest wants and deliver it at the right time in the right way, predicting guest behaviours and tailoring the service accordingly.

It can start from the little things like how you like your eggs in the morning to the exclusive things like delivering a beautiful medium-done Kobe steak just as your guest prefers it. Luxury, in hospitality particularly, could be small or big things, but everything has to create a meaningful experience and show you really care about each and every guest.

It is all about personal connection. We believe the most luxurious and opulent settings are meaningless if a guest cannot get their preferred style of service. We have one of the most exclusive spas in the city and one of the biggest guest rooms and yet we reiterate that our biggest luxury offering is our personalised guest service.

In comparison to other countries in Southeast Asia and beyond, how do you see Vietnam’s luxury hospitality sector?

As we can all see, Vietnam is quickly becoming the most popular destination in Southeast Asia for leisure as well as business travellers from all over the world. More tourists and investors visiting Vietnam have helped create a sense of how we can make these travellers feel that Vietnam can be their second home, with a basic standard of luxury living.

The market is still growing here so it is a very exciting place to be. If you look at the current overall market of Vietnam, even though the number of five-star hotels is rising, it is not even one-tenth of the quantity of hotels one can find in Bangkok or Singapore, for example.

I think in Vietnam luxury hospitality has great potential. Locations are clean and natural, not over-commercialised yet, and the food is fresh and flavoursome. Resources here are plentiful, which opens a lot of opportunities to the country and to business here.

While tourist arrivals are increasing, various corporations are also coming in to set up the large-scale industries here. We at Crowne Plaza West Hanoi are proven market leaders in the business hotel segment and with being managed by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) one of the largest hospitality groups in the world, I believe we do exceedingly well in this market.

The only weakness is the lack of qualified staff equipped and ready to offer five-star service and attitude. Ensuring good talent for all key positions is a challenge we are fully geared up for. However, I think every challenge is very manageable and there is no difficulty that cannot be overcome.

tying the knot between tradition and modernity
Crowne Plaza West Hanoi offers a stunning range of services for all types of visitors

Did the business strategy of the sector have to change to accommodate a younger crowd with changing tastes?

Today’s young people are eager to try many new things and are incredibly well-connected thanks to the amazing digital era. So we have a two-pronged differentiated approach for them. First, since they like to try new things constantly, we bring the world to their plate with ongoing and upcoming festivals such as Australia Day, Korean Food Festival Week, Friday Grills with Spanish food, and a Thai food festival.

Second, for this digitally-connected generation, we make sure we have great visibility on all major social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. We fill them with stories, news, and messages and keep it interactive and lively each day. This not only allows us to stay connected with them but, more importantly, to listen and understand their aspirations, their thoughts, and their dreams. Additionally, of course, if they have any concerns, feedback is now instantaneous.

tying the knot between tradition and modernity
Tying the knot between tradition and modernityThe luxury sector as a whole must balance modernity with local traditions and styles

What is the importance of maintaining local traditions in creating luxury tourism products alongside designing a modern service?

We are positioned as an upscale hotel for modern business travellers in Hanoi, a culturally rich city. Our brand is blended with the hotel’s design which actually looks contemporary and effective, but it also consists of touching points for the uniqueness of Vietnam.

Our hotel lobby is presented as the dragon, a symbolic creature of Vietnam. The symbol also leads across the floor to create a continuous and consistent image of the country where guests are staying. Also, our service culture is embraced from the entrance to every nook and cranny in a way that makes guests feel special and makes us enjoy what we are doing every day.

Hotels, especially five-star ones, have got to create something outstanding, memorable, and remarkable. So in order to bring exceptional cultural experiences to our customers, we have designed a lot of local-themed activities such as arranging shuttle buses to the city centre, partnerships with cultural signature shows, and organising local and traditional events in the hotel.

Are there any plans for ­collaborations to ensure your hotel remains unique and ­special in 2019?

IHG, the management company for Crowne Plaza West Hanoi, is one of the biggest hotel management companies in the world and thus has a huge advantage of scale. Operating in over 100 countries allows us to connect and get expertise from anywhere on the globe. Every year, we always refresh our business mindset and are passionate and excited about what we are going to plan next. In 2019, our focus will be on creating a food and wine journey across three countries to give our guests true luxury and a personalised experience. We will also enlist European chefs for a remarkable food promotion.

Finally, we are launching our outdoor glass spa and cabanas to promote a one-of-a-kind experience to our guests that is available nowhere else in Hanoi. This promises to provide guests bespoke spa treatments on a glass floor and calm and charming island-like cabanas, embracing the most soothing and natural environment inside the hustle and bustle of city life.

Moreover, upon guest request, we frequently create more localised experiences by offering cultural shows during coffee breaks or organising special tailor-made events, especially promoting a local theme when it comes to ­Vietnamese holidays or national events.

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