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Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 25 March 2006

Tourism & Leisure Accommodation

The World Travel and Tourism Coun­cil (WTTC) have reported that the global Travel & Tourism (T&T) industry rev­enues topped USD$6 trillion in 2005 - up 5.7% on 2004.

The Council also said it expects the industry to post an overall growth rate of 4.6% this year, with earnings in excess of USD$6.5 trillion.

They said recent research sug­gests the industry is poised to generate 2.5 million new jobs in 2006 - bringing the total to 76.7 million people working in primary tourism sectors and repre­senting 2.8% of the world's total workforce.

It says secondary tourism sectors bring the total to 220 million, which generates over 10% of the world's GDP.

Vietnam is the new Asian destination. Tourists have seen Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore and Vietnam is something new.

The country has very exciting opportunities as a new destination. Many people have heard about Vietnam and many countries have a historic relationship with Vietnam such as France, the US, Australia and China

Global & Regional Comparison

The Vietnam Na­tional Administration for Tourism (VNAT) is not a state management agency but a body that helps the government to carry out its management activities in this field.

It is not authorised to issue any legal documents, leading to difficulties for effective tourism management, given that there are 64 provinces EACH with their own Tourism Department – EACH of which is FIGHTING each other for investment.

"Under the current mechanism the effectiveness of the co-opera­tion between the tourism adminis­tration and other related agencies in tourism activities is not high," said the National Assembly delegate from Thua Thien-Hue province, which is home to a UNESCO­ accredited world heritage site - Hue Imperial City. She reasserted the need to set up a Tourism Ministry with the aim to promote tourism and develop competitiveness to spearhead tourist related economic development.

If Vietnam does not overcome its weaknesses in tourism management it will not be able to narrow the gap with other competitor regional coun­tries like Thailand, Malaysia & Singapore.

VNAT figures show the country has around 5,900 hotel businesses providing accommodation of around 124,000 rooms - including @240 foreign invested projects with a combined capital of @USD$6 billion.

Singapore tops the list of foreign investors with @USD$1.2 billion invested in 20 projects; Taiwan ranks second with @USD$784 million financing 15 projects; and Hong Kong third with @40 projects worth USD$642 million. Of these, there are @50,800 rooms of 1-5 star status at @1,100 hotels.

However, about 80% of the hotels are small with each only having about 20 rooms or less. There are only 19No 5 star hotels : 8No in HCMC; 8No in Hanoi; 1No in Da Nang; 1No in Da Lat; and 1No in Nha Trang.

Vietnam's tourism industry aims to attract 6 million foreign visitors per year by 2010 - double the figure it achieved in 2004.

However, the VNAT chairwoman recently said that the country is fac­ing stiff competition from other countries which are investing heavily in tourism. "In this race, the strength of Vietnam's tourism remains weak because the industry is still in the early stages of development and lagging behind other countries in many aspects." It will therefore be extremely difficult for Vietnam to attract the huge amount is needed (approximately USD$3.5 billion), to develop @140 resorts, tourism complexes and conference centers – mostly for the hospitality industry in 30 provinces and cities that it is seeking.

To put things better in perspective, Mohd Ilyas, General Secretary of the ASEAN Tourism Association & President of the Malaysian Association of Hotels recently said "To attract international exposure, Vietnam’s tourism authorities should rely on an international communication company to design a complete a promotion campaign and, of course, Vietnam should spend at least USD$10 to USD$20 million on this campaign." He went onto say that Vietnam currently spends @USD$1 million annually on tourism promotion compared to the tens of millions of dollars spent by regional countries.

The country’s current spending on tourism promotion is still modest, equaling only 1/58th that of Thailand’s and in addition Vietnam has yet to set up representative offices abroad – though a couple of individual provinces, such as Da Nang (in Japan) have done so themselves.

Also, HCMC have recently announced that is will spend the grand sum of VND5 billion @USD$320,000 on tourism promotion activities – although in reality it only represents an average expen­diture of VND3,000 / @USD$0.19 cents per tourist.

For reference, Singapore invests @USD$65 million to promote tourism, and according to a forecast by the Japan Travel Association, if Vietnam stepped up its tourism pro­motion and market­ed more diverse tourist packages, by 2010 as many as 500,000 Japanese tourists could visit Vietnam.

None-the-less, the World Tourism Council (WTC) forecasts that Vietnam’s tourism growth rate will reach 7.2-8.3% a year over the next 10 years, ranking it the world’s 7th fastest growing travel & tourism economy between 2006-2015.

Montenegro placed 1st (again) with an annualized growth rate of 10.2% with India & China 2nd & 3rd with annual growth rates of 9.2% & 8.6% respectively. The list also included Reunion Island (in the Indian Ocean off south­ern Africa), Croatia, Sudan, Laos, the Czech Republic & Guadeloupe.

The WTTC report said the annual growth rate of the tourism industry in 174 countries will average 4.6% over the next 10 years. Vietnam is expected to maintain a 7.2-7.9% growth rate, far exceeding global and regional tourism trends.

Tourism and travel currently represent @8.3% of all capital investments in Vietnam – a figure that not only includes high pro­file 5 star hotel properties, but also investments in aviation, airports, national parks and other key infrastructure.

Country
% GDP

% Total Capital Investment

Vietnam
8.1%
8.3%
Indonesia
10.3%
11.4%
Thailand
12.2%

11%

Malaysia
14.7%
15.9%
South East Asia
7.4%
10.4%
World
10.4%
9.4%

Furthermore : -

  • According to the ‘Footprint Travel’ guides from the British company Aon - the world's 2nd largest insurance corporation - Viet Nam is on a list of the 6 saf­est travel destinations in the world.  Although the foreign perception of Viet Nam re­mains bound up with ideas of invasion & war, such notions stand in stark contrast to the current safe & peaceful climate presiding across the nation. It went onto to say, "The environment is captivating & the food is divine. I think it's the best food in the world."
  • The Pa­cific Asia Travel Association (PATA) estimate that Viet Nam could welcome 3.64 & 3.89 million visitors in 2006-07 respectively, represent­ing a market share of more than 5.8% in the region including half a million American visitors - a  comparatively mod­est figure considering that each year the world sees 50 million out­bound US travellers.
  • Vietnam was chosen as the “Most Outstanding Place in the Far East? at the 2005 Viaggiatori International Tourism Fair - held in the Swiss city of Lugano.
  • According to VNAT, since 1990 the tourism industry has continually seen an average growth of more than 20% in the number of tourists.
  • The tourism industry has created more than 234,000 direct jobs and over 500,000 indirect jobs and so is part of the government’s socio-economic development platform for the future.

Hanoi

The number of tourists coming to Hanoi has increased in recent years from 2.6 million tourists in 2000 to 4.5 million in 2004 & 5 million tourists in 2005 - including 3.7-4.3 million Vietnamese visitors & 1.1 million foreigners or @33% of all foreigners visiting Vietnam.

According to the Municipal Tourism Department, the number of tourists coming to Hanoi will continue to increase by 15%-18% a year, so that by 2010 Hanoi will receive 1.6-1.8 million foreign and more than 5.7 million domestic tourists who will each stay 3.1 days on average – up from the current 2.7 days.

Financially, official forecasts also predict that tourist revenues will shortly increase 2.26 times over 2005’s USD$692 million and account for 10.38% of the city’s GDP, with hotel revenues alone increasing 170%.

Ha Noi now boasts a total of @425 hotels with @12,500 rooms, of which @175 hotels are ranked from 2-5 star by the Viet Nam National Administra­tion of Tourism (VNAT) as meeting international standards with @8,700 rooms, although most of them are small hotels incapable of accommodating tour groups.

However, its 8No 5 star hotels only provide @2,370 rooms and 6No 4 star hotels (including 4No foreign invested properties : the Guoman, the Hanoi, the Sunway and the Fortuna), a further @1,000 rooms.

Hanoi’s tourism devel­opment master-plan envis­ages that 21,000 rooms of all standards will be built by 2010 including @8,000No 4-5 star rooms. Furthermore, in the immediate short-term they estimate that there is demand for @3,000 more 4-5 star rooms and so are seeking investors to develop another 500-700 hotel rooms of 3-5 star standards immediately – but have only been able to offer sites in the newly developing suburban districts since, “It is difficult because town planning is often not linked with tourism and hotel development" (VNAT Vice Chairman).

Another solution to the acute shortage of 3-5 star accommodation recently suggested by the Deputy Director of the Hanoi Tourism Depart­ment is for some hotels be upgraded and others be encouraged to change “parts? used for other functions to provide an additional 500 rooms.

Investment in hotels came to a standstill after the Asian financial crisis wreaked its havoc on South-East Asia’s tourism & property indus­tries. As a result, the 299 ­room Sheraton is the only 5 star hotel that has opened in the city over the past 7 years, although it will soon be joined by the 327 room Inter-Conti­nental (originally planned in the mid 1990’s as the Lien West Lake).

However, no other up market hotel projects are currently under construction in the city, although there is talk of a new 5 ­star hotel complex close to the new National Conference Centre that is under con­struction in My Dinh 15+ minutes drive from down-town.

The peak tourist season in Hanoi is between October-April, although the growing number of business travelers, particularly from East Asia, and the recent arrival of ‘budget-airlines’ such as Singapore’s Tiger Air­ways & Thailand’s Air-Asia ensure that there is never a “dead season.?

Five star hotels include the Sofitel Metropole, the Melia, the Daewoo, the Hanoi Hilton Opera, the Nikko, the Sheraton, the Horizon (all developed in the mid-late 1990’s and the new InterContinental West Lake Hanoi : Construction of the Lien West Lake hotel restarted in late 2004 after 6 years of sitting in limbo.

The 1994 USD$40 million property was 70% complete in 1998 when the JV between Tradewinds Corporation and Thang Long Tourist Company ran out of money. The concept is for 5 floors buildings developed on 3 islet villages with bridges connecting in-between, providing 327 rooms and 36 luxury apartments.

Ho Chi Minh City

HCMC received 1.65 million foreign arrivals in 2002 and @2.1-2.5 in 2003 so is now facing a shortage of accommodation and 3-5 star hotel rooms in particular and travel agents often complain that they are unable to make block-bookings for big groups & MICE (Meetings-Incentives-Conferences-Exhibitions) events, especially dur­ing the peak tourist season from October to May.

HCMC has @19,500 hotel rooms in total in @700 hotels including @7,350 of 1-5 star standards but the HCMC Tourism Department has forecast that the city will need 10,000 more hotel rooms in by 2010. The 5 star hotels of­fer @2,770 rooms although an additional @400 rooms will come on-stream shortly after the dominant local hotelier SaigonTourist complete the renovation & upgrades to the currently 4 star Rex & Majestic : - the Caravelle (335 rooms, 24 floors, 19 Lam Son Square, District 1); the Marco Polo Omni (248 rooms, 7 floors, 251 Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan District); the Legend Hotel Saigon (282 rooms, 17 floors, 2a-4a Ton Duc Thang, District 1); the Sheraton Saigon Hotel (382 rooms, 25 floors, 88 Dong Khoi, District 1); the New World Hotel Saigon (552 rooms, 14 floors, 76 Le Lai, District 1); the Sofitel Plaza Saigon       (290 rooms, 20 floors, 17 Le Duan, District 1); the Renaissance Riverside (349 rooms, 21 floors, 8-15 Ton Duc Thang, District 1); the Hotel Equatorial (333 rooms, 11 floors, 242 Tran Binh Trong, District 5); the Windsor Hotel (402 rooms, xxx floors, John Smith); and the Park Hyatt (259 rooms. Xxx floors, Le Loi).

According to a recent survey by the HCMC Economics University & HCMC Service of Tourism of 2,700 tourists, the average length of stay was 6 days; that 82% of international tourists come to the city for sightseeing and relax­ation; 12% for business; and 3% Viet Kieu (Overseas Vietnamese) to visit relatives; that 33% come on package-tours; that independent tourists (not on package-tours) spend more than those on organised tours – an average USD$81 a day compared to USD$66; that while young tourists tend to spend less, people aged from 45-54 spend USD$94 a day and those from 55-64 spend US$137 a day.

However, much of their spending is for accommodation and food, while spending on shopping is still very ­much limited. Of the total daily spend­ing, only 15.74% went on shopping; 26% on accommodation; 25,8% on entertainment; and 18% on food & drink.

Regional tourists from Thai­land spend USD$212 a day; from Singaporean spend USD$247; and from Malaysia USD$191 – well above the overall “all nationalities? average of only USD$74 a day. Perhaps most importantly though, is the fact that the ratio of tourists coming back for a second visit is only 10.2% & for a third visit only 3% - well below that of Thailand & Malyasia.- and that the average foreign tourist in Thailand spends between UDS$1,200-USD$1,500 compared to Vietnam’s USD$300-700.

Five star hotels include the Sheraton, the Caravelle, the Sofitel, the New World, the Renaissance, the Omni, the Park Hyatt, the Equatorial, the Legend, the Windsor and will soon be joined by the upgraded Majestic & Rex hotels.

The Park Hyatt opened in 2005 : The Grand Imperial Saigon Hotel started life in 1994 as a 10 floor USD$44 million JV between Malaysia's Radiant Investment Company & Hong Kong's United Concord International Limited. By the end of 1995 the project was officially renamed the Park Hyatt Saigon Hotel but construction stopped with the Asian financial crisis. Thought construction of the structure opposite the Opera House was nearly complete, the skeleton remained for years as a bad reminder of better times.

By 1995 the smell from, what had become a public toilet, was so bad, and presumably embarrassing to the local authorities, that 5 major local commercial banks were ‘asked’ to provide a 12 year USD$22.5 million syndicated loan to complete the job.

Beach & Regional Tourist Destinations

With a coastline of more than 3,000 km and many islands, Vietnam has great potential for the development of resorts. Over the past 15 years many resorts have been developed and many, many more planned at beautiful beaches, especially those on the coast from the central region down to the south, such as Da Nang, Quang Nam, Khanh Hoa, Phan Thiet, Vung Tau, Mui Ne & Phu Quoc - which is the size of Singa1pore and with virgin rain-forest stretching down, interrupted to the Gulf of Thailand, and from which one can quite clearly see Cambodia.

According to some unofficial sources, there are about 100 resorts operational through­out Vietnam. Other sources say about 50 luxury resorts have been developed in the central region alone. A tour­ism official says there are more than 100 resorts opera­tional in Vietnam, but only 20 or so are up to interna­tional standards. Due to the lack of a long ­term strategy and a zoning plan, the overall picture for resort development in Viet­nam is still unclear.

Luxury re­sorts like the Furama in Da Nang City; the Ana Mandara & Sofitel VinPearl Resort & Spa in Khanh Hoa (Nha Trang); Le Domaine de Tam Hai in Quang Nam (Hoi An); and the Victoria & Life Resorts chains have now become familiar names to many luxury travelers and even the hundreds-of-thousands of ‘back-packers’ because of their off-peak-season discounts.

In Phan Thiet, small, ugly resorts with no greenery are located beside large, international­ standard resorts. In Hoi An, beautiful riverside resorts are near rivers polluted by garbage. The tourist demand for re­sorts is increasing steadily and upto 54% of international visitors come to Vietnam for tourism and relaxation pur­poses; and the annual growth rate of visitors coming to the country for these purposes is estimated by some at @25% or more than 1.58 million - higher than the increase of @11.5% by business-tourism travelers & 12% by people visiting relatives and holidaying. To meet this increasing demand, the resort system in Vietnam has to be better planned. The tourism authority – VNAT - says it will issue con­crete regulations for resort classification when the Tour­ism Law comes into force – but that could easily (still) be many years away. A tourism official has fore­cast that the central region from Quang Nam to Binh Thuan will remain a hot spot for resort development. Simi­larly, a study for tourism de­velopment in Vietnam by the Japan International Coopera­tion Agency (JICA) published in 2001 says the most dynamic region for resort development in Vietnam is the central re­gion, comprising 11No. prov­inces from Quang Binh to Ninh Thuan. It advises that coastal roads should be built to speed up tourism develop­ment in the region. In reality, this work is being done only by a few districts in a few provinces. Some such as Da Nang have gone to the trouble – at the expense of the local tax payers – to open foreign Representative Offices in Japan, etc – paradoxically even though they are loath to grant 100% FIE (Foreign Investment Enterprises) licences; typically preferring JVs with a local State Owned Enterprises. Others like Thua Thien-Hue & Quang Nam (Hoi An) seem to be genuinely trying to keep Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) away eg Hue currently still has ZERO foreign invested hotels – though at last one or two are being built in JVs with the local tourism authorities and / or their ‘close’ associates; and in Hoi An that currently has two with a combined 200-300 rooms only – again in JVs with the local tourism authorities and / or their ‘close’ associates.

Another attraction to re­sort developers is Phu Quoc Island. The Government has plans to turn this island into a tour­ist attraction. It has a favor­able location, being near HCMC, which gets 55% of the number of interna­tional visitors to Vietnam, and the Gulf of Thailand, making it convenient for tourists in neighboring countries to come for a visit on cruise tours. Moreover, during the stormy sea sea­son in Central Vietnam, the sea in Phu Quoc is calm, en­hancing the opportunity to attract visitors to resorts there.

Over the years there have been numerous ‘Monster’ tourism-based projects planned and god-knows how many smaller ones. None of the “professionally? invested project have ever been built – though several are now being resusitated and others planned. The following is an abreviated list of the most ‘financially significant’ of those and that are in the most promising tourist areas : -

Da Lat : - Dankia Suoi Vang : A group of Japanese compa­nies comprising Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sutnitomo & Limtec have signed a letter of intent to invest USD$1.2 billion to tap potentials of the Dankia-Suoi Vang zone for 70 years (Note – the current maximum ordinarily permitted is 50 years). The Prime Minister has agreed ‘in principle’ to the wholly foreign-owned in­vestment scheme by the Japanese investors.  Situated about 22 km from Da Lat, the plan is to develop an “International Standard? attractive urban town called the Romantic Town Dalat's Flower. An official from the provincial Service of Trade & Tour­ism said that the investors wanted to turn the area into a temperate town as a retreat for Japanese ‘grey’ tourists, especially elderly people. As presented in the planning outline, the 5,071 hect­are area, including 3,000 hect­ares of forest, will become a big town with 30,000 villas, 3 high end hotels, a 36 hole golf course, an opera house & entertainment area with sports facilities, and – of course – state of the art hospital to keep the residents alive as long as possible. The town will be divided into three phases and basic construction should be finished by 2017.

Phu Quoc Island : - Rockingham Asset Management : The Los Angeles based property firm hopes to develop a USD$1.5 billion resort complex which will include an airport, seaport, sports and cultural areas and town, would become the most attractive tourist spot in Asia and plans to turn 600 sqkm into an internationally recognised aqua-ecological venue as well as a trade and cultural exchange centre.

In 2005, the PM approved plans to turn Phu Quoc and its surrounding 26 smaller island into an “international tourism centre? able to receive 2-3 million tourists a year by 2020.

A total of 3,800 hectares or 6.3% of the island's total natural area will be devoted to tourist facilities. For comparision, in 2001 about 45,000 foreign tourists traveled to the whole province - Kien Giang.

As at the date of writing there is STILL, unbelievably ZERO Foreign Direct Investment on the island (other than the small old Australian backed pearl farm), which at 560 sqkm is MUCH bigger than Phuket, Ko Samui and similar to Singapore’s 699 sqkm, with VIRGIN FOREST going to the seashore & wild monkeys and endangered species in the dense impenetrable forest.

There is also no domestic investment, other than the modest 200 room resort from the ubiquitous SaigonTourist – though they are, and have been planning for many, many years, to construct a golf course & casino. The island’s master-plan encourages the development of recreational & sport areas and envisages 4 golf courses, a horse-race track & water sport courses to be built. To emphasis the increasing economic importance of the island, in early 2006 the government approved a project to build a USD$160 million 800­ hectare international airport capable of handling more than 2.5 million passengers a year as well as Airbus A320s, A321s & Boeing 767s when it is completed in 2008-10. Another positive sign, is the announcement by a Japanese & Australian JV that they intended to develop a USD$1 billion 1,000 mega watt thermoelectric plant transmit more electricity to the island to lessen the number of frequent black-outs.

Note : In 2005 the Kien Giang People’s Court handed down a jail term of 11 years to the former Chairman of Phu Quoc Island District and 10 years to the former Deputy Chairman of the District, in a land scandal. Six other people were sentenced to 2 – 6 years in prison for illegal land trading related offences.

Phan Thiet-Mui Ne / Binh Thuan : - Disneyland : Seven US investors want to build a Disneyland style theme park and resort in the coastal town of Phan Thiet, 300 kilometres north of Ho Chi Minh City. South Fork Development Company has applied to develop a USD$1 billion resort. The American investors include many of the world's biggest names in film, entertainment and amusement parks. Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney, Disney's California Adventure, MGM. Warner Bros and Hong Kong Disney are all slated to become involved. The investors expect to attract “five-star? visitors from around the world by transforming Phan Thiet into a world class resort. The project will cover 600 hectares, encompassing 5 coastal resorts with about 900 rooms, two 18 hole golf courses and a 6,000 seat international conference centre. A central area named “Downtown Asia? will feature cultural specialities from Asian nations, a leisure area modelled on Disneyland and a park. The five resorts will be built with different architectural styles and all will be designed to top international standards as the American investors behind the project do not want to see mid level products so, for example, the  two golf courses will be designed by USA Nicklaus Designs, an internationally reputed golf course designer.

Aquaba : Suoi Nuoc Resort plans to build 60 apartments, 33 town houses & 6 villas on a 2.2 hectare site costing USD$9.5 ­million along the beach of Mui Ne in Phan Thiet  Units in the 2No 7 floor blocks with all be fully furnished and cost  upto USD$200,000 with the larger 3 room town houses from USD$200,000 and the 4 room villas about USD$525,000.

Nha Trang / Khanh Hoa : - Vinpearl : The USD$28.5 million property opened in December 2003 with 500 rooms and a swimming pool that the owners claim is the largest in a hotel in Southeast Asia. It has sine been through many of the hotel management companies and is now with Accor and called Sofitel VinPearl Resort & Spa. It is the first stage of the total development of the whole 360sqkm island including a USD$7 million 3.3 km cable car network supported by 9 pillars in the form of Paris' Eiffel tower to connect the island to the mainland; a USD$15 million marina with Vietnam’s first yacht club & food court; a second 4 star hotel & golf course complex with 20 hectares for 5 star villas; more villa compounds on either side of the cable car including a USD$24 million project called Phu Quy on 71 hectares with beachfront with USD$20 million worth of infrastructure to turn the area into a waterfront resort community - in a similar vein Australia's Gold Coast and Singapore's Sentosa. The developer – Ukranian Viet Kieu – are also behind the USD$40 million Vincom City Towers shopping & office complex in Hanoi.

Vinh Phuc : - Flamingo Resort : Situated in Vinh Phuc province , the resort will feature a 200 room 5 star resort, 400 villas of 300-2,000 sqm selling for about USD$410 / sqm included the cost for land and infrastructure at about USD$295 as well as shopping centres, a post office, kindergarten, cinema and swimming pools overlooking several artificial lakes in Dai Lai lake, located on 115 hectares 10 km from Noi Bai (Hanoi) airport and 40 km from downtown Hanoi. The complex is located next to a proposed 36 hole golf course and close to two others.

Ba Ria-Vung Tau : - Saigon Atlantis : In early 2006 the government – at last - approved the long touted USD$300 million Saigon Atlantis Golf Resort by the coastal city of Vung Tau close by HCMC. The project will be developed on a 300 hectare site in Cua Lap 6km east of the city and will comprise a 5 star 1,000 room hotel; 70-80 villas; recreation facilities; a shopping centers; restau­rants & slot machine area. The original concept was for a 1,200 room hotel and casino project providing employment for up to 20,000  with, in the 1st  Stage : a hotel & casino costing USD$150 million; in the 2nd Stage : a restaurant area, golf course, manor houses, international bank & helicopter landing pad to transport guests from HCMC; and the 3rd Stage : sports & entertainment facilities including a swimming pool, water park, sailing area, theatre, exhibition area & trading centre. The developer – Dai Tay Duong Resort - was a Joint Venture between Thuan Phat Co Ltd & United International Business Limited of Hong Kong. In 2005 the US based Winvest Investment LLC got involved and it is understood that they have acquired some or all of the foreign partner’s interest in a 50 year JV that is “renewable? for an additional 30 years. Initially the developer intended to build a casino in the resort, but in 2004 this and several other huge USD$1+ billion casino projects like Vina Las Vegas in Quang Nam, in Chu Lai, in Lang Son, in Da Lat & Quang Ninh were refused permission.

Note : - Casino projects are strictly conditional in Viet­nam and are considered on a case-by-case basis only as gambling considered a sensitive area. In 2003, following a slew of applications for billion dollar casino projects, the new set of rules were introduced confining gaming services to expatri­ates & Overseas Viet­namese only. So far, the country has just one casino, in the northern resort town of Do Son although several 4 & 5 star hotels have been licensed to operate limited casino services such as slot machines and jackpots only including the New World Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, Malavina in Hanoi, the Hai Ninh-Loi Lai JV in Quang Ninh. The Do Son casino is a 20%-80% USD$25 million 30 year JV in Hai Phong licenced in the mid-1990’s and also involves Hong Kong's United International Business Ltd (see Saigon Atlantis). The latest to be licensed are the De Hoang Interna­tional Club and Royal hotel JV both in Quang Ninh, Overseas Vietnamese Club OVI in Ho Chi Minh City, Duyen Hai Hotel in Lao Cai, and a $3.75 million facility at Tan Thanh Chinese bor­der-gate (invested in by Hong Kong's Hua Zhen Textile & Trading Company). All the projects are either in the form of JVs or busi­ness cooperation contracts. Malavina is the only project to solely involve gaming. Most reportedly generate healthy profits.

Hoi An / Quang Nam : - Vina Las Vegas : Golban C&D and the financial group Lehman Brothers hope to invest USD$1 billion in a casino resort on the coast of Dien Ban District about 60 km north of Tam Ky, the provincial capital of Quang Nam covering 540 hectares and extending from the sea to the Co Co River. They believe that the stunning coastline and proximity to Da Nang and Chu Lai airports and World Heritage sites make the location ideal. The proposed license duration is 50 years and the original plan included construction of 500 apartments, 15,000 premium hotel rooms, a commercial conference & exhibition centre, a health spa, a 36 hole golf course, a marine activity area & park, and last but not least 4 casinos with auxiliary facilities for foreigners. It is understood that the investor is prepared to build the entire infrastructure for the site, 200 apartments and an 18 hole golf course before proceeding with the casino. The project has received strong support from Quang Nam authorities, as well as many ministry officials, who hoped it would stimulate economic development in the poverty stricken province. The Prime Minister has expressed his “in principle? agreement.

Ha Long Bay / Quang Ninh : Tuan Chau International Tourism & Recreation Resort near Ha Long : - US firms Andy Dye Group & Tree Group have set up the Ha Long Bay Group JV which plans to invest USD$1 billion in three initial projects. Andy Dye, founded in 1923, now has about 200 golf courses worldwide and Tree, established 20 years ago, has built a series of luxury hotels in the US, mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and other countries. About USD$400 million is earmarked for a complete revamp of the 250 hectare Tuan Chau to build two 18-hole golf courses, a golf club, a 5 star hotel, 640 condominiums, 300 luxury villas, 50 estate lots (“for billionaires and international figures? according to the MoU), a marina & yacht club, a helicopter pad, an underwater and adventure sports areas. The two other projects, which will cost USD$550-600 million, are a 108 hole golf course at Yen Trung Lake in Quang Ninh Province's Uong Bi Town and a 5-6 star hotel in Nha Trung in the central Khanh Hoa Province. The 1,000 hectare Yen Trung complex will cover 6 international standard golf courses and a golf club, 2,000-2,500 luxury villas and 300 condominiums. Details of the 400 room hotel in Nha Trang are still being finalized.

Foreign Involvement

Accor : - The Sofitel Vinpearl Resort & Spa on Hon Tre island off Nha Trang is the latest addition to Accor’s management portfolio that includes 7 hotels in Hanoi, HCM City, Dalat & Phan Thiet, with others scheduled to open in Nha Trang, Hue & Quang Ninh.

Victoria Hotels & Resorts : - The French developer and management company have a large network of hotels throughout Vietnam but are not yet in either Hanoi or HCMC – which is a reflection on the availability of sites, price of land and complicated procedures. The group has a series of boutique hotels including the Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa and others in Sapa, Phan Thiet, Can Tho and Chau Doc. They has been much talk of 22 hect­are beach resort with 80 villas & bungalows in Phu Quoc and of a resort in a 50 hectare development Hue and one in Da Lat but these have yet to commence construction.

Life Resorts Group : - The Dutch company develops & operates hotels in Hoi An, Quy Nhon, is hoping to start construction in Hue & Phu Quoc soon and is looking for sites in Hanoi & HCMC.

Marriott : - The large management company operates under the New World & Renaissance brands in HCMC.

Hilton : - The Hilton operates the one hotel in Hanoi.

Hyatt International : - The US hotel management company manage over 40 hotels in the Asia Pacific region but only one in Vietnam – the Park Hyatt in HCMC.

InterContinental : - InterContinental is known worldwide for its excellence in service quality and standards and is arguably the world's most globally active and largest hotel management company with 3,500 hotels in more than 100 countries with 21 million members of its loyalty programme. The Lien Westlake project is their first instruction in Vietnam.

Sheraton / Starwood : - US company Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide have over 750 properties in more than 80 coun­tries In Vietnam is manages the Sheraton Saigon Hotel and is looking to open up in Hanoi soon.

Swiss-Belhotel International : - A small European hotel group that manages 10 to 12 properties in China, Indonesia and the Philip­pines but one of the biggest foreign hotel management companies in Vietnam.

Sol Melia : - The French company currently they only manage the SolMelia Hotel in Hanoi.

Marco Polo Group : - The Hong Kong based company currently only manage the Marco Polo Omni Saigon Hotel in HCMC.

Six Senses : - The Bangkok-based Six-Sens­es Hotels, Resorts & Spas, which operates the Ana Mandara Resort in Nha Trang, is another company expanding its business with con­tracts to manage two boutique properties to be opened next year. The development of two more Evason brand properties are on the cards - the Evason Hideaway Ana Mandara Ninh Van Bay and Eva­son Ana Mandara Villas Dalat. They see Vietnam as a huge growth destination for luxury trav­el and plan to introduce their top-tier brand Soneva in the future. Hong said.

Conclusion

Vietnam is becoming so successful in attracting foreign tourists - including business travelers - that most of the better hotels are, and have been running at virtually full capacity for a couple of years (SARS excluded). Thus, there is a huge demand from foreign and local developers for ‘prime’ sites, especially in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, to build new stock. Unfortunately, like with others planning to cater to the sky-high occupancies at office, serviced apartments, retail properties and even in popular Industrial Parks, there is, apparently (amazingly), “no more land left?, thus strangling the supply side growth and so keep occupancies & rentals at abnormally high levels. Cynics may even say that this is only serving the self-interests of the existing landlords and land-owners, who almost invariably are either directly or indirectly (currently or previously) connected with national or local government and / or the Party and / or each other.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 14 October 2006 )
 
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