Mauro Gasparotti is the Director of Savills Hotels, a part of Savills Group, specializing in hospitality consultancy and brokerage. Their scope of works provides hotel developers on the optimal development options, the indication of expected investment costs, from the different possibility of hotel positioning and type to the operating aspects in term of selection of hotel operators and brands.
After many years experienced in hospitality consultancy and brokerage, Mauro has an overview of Vietnam tourism today - as well as the trends and opportunities may come in the near future. Let's talk to Mauro to see if there are any positive signals waiting for Vietnam tourism in 2021.
How did end up coming to our country?
Thirteen beautiful years! I arrived when I was 27, I am now 40.
It was 2007, I had started my career in hospitality investment for 2.5 years. I remember by accident seeing a cover of a magazine with “Vietnam: the next Asian Tiger”. I did not know much about Viet Nam, to be honest, beside some “war stories”. I decided to google “Saigon”, then “Saigon night life” and then “Vietnamese people”. Then I emailed few companies, got a job offer, I bought a one-way ticket and have been here ever since.
What makes you stay in Vietnam?
I love Viet Nam. I love the people, the vibe, the nature; I love my team, my clients, colleagues. And of course my beautiful Vietnamese girlfriend.
Have you explored a lot of places in Vietnam yet?
I can say I have been pretty much everywhere in Viet Nam, from north to south and east to west. From business trips to Mong Cai, looking at developing islands, all the way down south advising clients on acquisition of shrimp farms in Bac Lieu. From very east Mui Dien in Phu Yen on a sailing trip, all the way to bus trips to the very west in Dak Nong visiting my girlfriend’s family!
Viet Nam delivers tourism with strong “experiences”, people coming here never forget it. They always bring memories of Viet Nam back with them.
Based on your personal assessment, can you make a prediction about the tourism industry in Vietnam in 2021?
Compared to other regional peers, Vietnam is in much better position on the recovery path thanks to three factors: (1) local travelers here accounted for such a large proportion of the total travelers which helps support recovery path; (2) Vietnamese was a great source of outbound travelers in the region and this group is now shifting to travel within the country; (3) Vietnam proximity to other Asian countries whose Covid-19 situation is under control. When the borders reopen, these groups of travelers are expected to soon rebound and they are a very large base including China, Korean, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan which will probably opt for short trip holiday at least for 2021 and part of 2022 before re embarking to holiday in Europe or USA.
The majority of the hotels now are basing their budget into the base scenario that Q1 & Q2 still relying mainly on local demand and Q3 & Q4 being able to start seeing international tourist back. Considering that this year on average the market is expected to close at occupancy levels of 28% for the whole country, next year the hope is to be able to add volume in the final part of the year and bring the occupancy to cross the 50% mark. But, it will heavily rely on vaccine success and policy on borders opening.
In your opinion, can Vietnam's tourism industry have a breakthrough recovery in 2021?
I believe the recovery will happen, but it will take the whole 2021 and probably 2022 to be back to 2019 volumes. Investors and hospitality players should look at the medium term of the industry and focus now on improvements such as new products, new entertainment, better qualities, services and infrastructure improvements. This will allow the country to be ready for the next wave up and fully capture the upside. It should be a teamwork which involves local authorities, travel agencies, hotels, and tourism enterprises so that the tourism can be taken to the next level for the country.
Vietnam was going into the direction of oversupply and over tourism. We should now take this moment to rethink the industry and improve it, considering the string potential for the whole country and not only for specific dingle destination or single properties.
In order to survive, many hotels and resorts have offered great incentive or discount package, but is that a long-term solution?
Usually, hotels tend not to lower rates as increasing them again can prove to be very difficult, but no one had experienced before of what has happen this year. By lowering rates, hotels shift their original category to access a different and wider range of customer segments. The tricky part is with guests becoming accustomed to lower prices, that will affect the perception of “value” when the full price is reinstated.
Another common solution to create revenue is promotions, such as full packages with complimentary one-night stay and F&B benefits or offering to pay for your return flight tickets as part of a three-day getaway.
Many tourism trends have become popular in recent months. Can you predict what trends will be favored by Vietnamese people in 2021?
First of all, we are moving from classifying properties by “Stars” with 3, 4, 5 level into properties by “Type”, but we have also moved way from classifying traveler by “Business guest and Leisure Guest” defining guest in much more personalized way and using definition such as Silver Nomads, Millennial Travelers, Eco-Warriors, Last Minute, Bleisure Guest, Foodie Traveller, Wellness Seekers, Groupies, Family Travelers and much more.
That has given hotel owners, operators and consultants unique opportunity to stay focused on “Guest Experiences” in much more tailored way and truly capture the essence of hospitality, which is much more than “room with a bed”.
Talking about trends, I am big fan of wellness resorts, which are the whole integration of nutrition, eco activities, sustainability, education with also some angles of spiritual experience (at different level). We started to see wellness resorts in Vietnam offering not only yoga and mindfulness activities, but also detox and holistic programs with a series of in-house activities instructed by specialized trainers.
I am also a big fan of resort and hotel that do care of the F&B component and deliver additional value to the guest through their service and quality of food. I cannot stress enough to owners how important the food element is for certain resorts and how they should care. From the other side, I also stress on how irrelevant the food element is for certain type of hotel. That’s how I love hospitality as it includes such a variety of options!
Do you have any plans to contribute to the recovery of the tourism industry in 2021?
Me and my team often run various activities such as professional conferences, industry networking events and information sharing webinar to facilitate the industry. One of our most widely known events is Meet The Experts, which is the largest hotel conference in Vietnam, and It will become an ongoing and lively catalyst for information-sharing to help or inspire hotel owners and developers.