Luxury Travel Specialist Offers Insider Tips for Vietnam
Recently, Pham Ha, founder and CEO of Luxury Travel Ltd. was asked for some of his insider tips and why now is the time to go to Vietnam.
How do you find and obtain the top flight accommodations, amenities, and cuisine that are expected by a very high end clientele?
PH: Luxury travel means different things to different people. First, money is not the end all be all for identifying what clients want. By this I mean that while two clients may be in the same income bracket, they may have completely opposite tastes in all aspects of their travels, so you have to get to know each client individually.
Of course, you could book only fancy spas, etc., but you will be in trouble when you get the client that is more adventurous and may even have a dislike of certain high end accommodations. After we determine that, we can get into the logistics of finding the right service and proper providers, but not before.
However, I do have to anticipate a little, so that I know which options are available so that when a client makes his wishes known I have the ability to offer what they want, or as close as possible. But we rarely find that we cannot accommodate a request.
What are your favorite hotels?
PH: That is difficult to say, but in Vietnam, my personal favorite is Six Senses Ninh Van Bay Nha Trang, but I find that the top five that seem to leave clients in awe are Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel, La Residence Hue Hotel and Spa, the Nam Hai in Hoi An, the Park Hyatt Saigon Hotel and Six Senses Con Dao.
Again, there is always room for different styles of travel, but these are well known brands and most clients feel comfortable with them right at the start. However, each has its own unique style and charm.
Six Senses Con Dao has everything you might want, like a much larger resort, but it is limited to a smaller clientele, with fewer rooms and suites, guaranteeing exclusivity.
Vietnam’s newest island destination, Con Dao is an untouched and breathtakingly beautiful archipelago only a 45 minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City.
The 50 private pool villas offer space and privacy along with an uncompromising standard of luxury. Villas are either Ocean View or Ocean Front (single-level and duplex) offering a choice of one, three and four bedrooms.
There is a great staff to guest ratio, which means that there is always someone around to take care of your needs, whether it is an extra towel at the pool or a late night snack.
The staff are locals and make an effort to make you feel like one too, while of course being mindful of providing elite and personalized service.
How often do you visit places you are planning to recommend to clients?
PH: We have visited our destinations, and have personally checked out the finest hotels, resorts and restaurants designed for discriminating travelers. We sell our clients our real experiences.
In fact, I am always doing that, but I recently came back from Laguna Lang Co, and I am very excited to send guests. It is located in Lang Co Town, in the central province of Thua Thien Hue, which is about 1.5 hours from Phu Bai Airport in Hue or a 30 minute drive from Danang Airport.
It’s truly special, framed by three kilometres of beach and lush countryside. And it is extensive, covering 280-hectares near Lang Co Bay in the Chan May region. And it has a great view, overlooking the East Sea. I recommend it for it pristine beauty, tropical jungles and rugged mountain peaks.
Plus, it is an ideal base for tourists to explore UNESCO-recognised world heritage sites such as the ancient imperial capital of Hue, Hoi An ancient town and the relics of My Son.
This unique holiday destination is a world unto itself, comprising the Banyan Tree and Angsana branded hotels and resorts, award-winning spas, convention facilities and an array of recreational offerings including a championship golf course.
We expect the 18-hole, par-71 course to provide a wonderful golfing experience to both expert players and beginners alike.
Why is Vietnam emerging as a luxury destination?
PH: There has been growing interest in Southeast Asia in general, although Vietnam has always been a popular destination for adventurous travelers and history buffs.
I believe we are seeing a generation of veterans of the American War who are coming back to gain a new perspective.
However, the huge growth is certainly due to the simple fact that infrastructure is improving and there are more accessible locations and many more hotel rooms than there were even 5 years ago.
Vietnam now has world-class hotels and resorts, beaches, and cuisine, in addition to its natural beauty, rich history, and traditional culture.
Also, Vietnam represents somewhat of a travel bargain, even for those who don’t normally concern themselves with cost. This has been truer since the downturn in 2008.
What does a resort have to have to make the grade for your clients?
PH: First, as I mentioned, there is no “one” hotel experience that fits all of our clients. However, any hotel we recommend must do what it does, and do it to the highest level.
Simply saying you are a five star hotel will not make it so. There must be no room for error as far as things like cleanliness, basic amenities and numerous and accessible food options. It really takes a feel for the place that you can only get by visiting at least once.
Also, the hotel MUST provide what is advertised. If it sells itself as a place for honeymooners and romantic getaways, it should not be filled with large families and lots of children. And of course the reverse is true.
What should everyone know about the top destinations in Vietnam?
PH: While many of our clients don’t want to seem like “tourists” and may want to venture off the beaten path, there is no denying that Halong Bay is tops on the list of places that foreigners know about and want to visit.
Hanoi Capital, the Imperial Hue City, Hoi An Ancient Town, and Ho Chi Minh City are among the must see cities. Beach lovers go to Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, and the Phu Quoc Islands and if you want to be among the first vacationers on the island, venture to Con Dao.
However, that makes some of these spots crowded and a bit of a hassle on group tours. The key for us is to explain how we can take all that away, and treat our guests to privacy and touring on their own schedule, rather than being rushed about.
That alone is usually enough to justify the extra cost of a bespoke tour. Luxury travel is being redefined as a time for unique experiences.
And when clients get to their destination, we make sure there is virtually no activity they can’t do when they arrive. This is especially true for those traveling with children. Again, knowing the client’s tastes and lifestyle makes the rest so much easier to do.
The last question when is the best time to discover Vietnam?
The peak season is from September to April where the weather is beautiful from North to South Vietnam.
Vietnam’s elongated shape, stretching from the tropics to the subtropical zone, accounts for the varied climate in the country. So, we promote Vietnam as a year round destination, because when one part of Vietnam is cloudy and rainy, there are other parts of the country that can be sunny and warm.
North Vietnam enjoys four seasons, meanwhile Central and South have two, rainy and dry seasons. Heat and humidity are typical weather of Vietnam and weather is often a determinant factor in travel planning so we stress preparedness.
How about the summer time, is from May to August a good time to go holidaying in Vietnam?
Discerning visitors often plan a journey to Vietnam with a single query in their head, “Is the summer a good time to discover the place and enjoy beach holiday getaways?” The simple answer is, absolutely!