With Vietnam’s stock as one of Asia’s most exciting destinations continuing to rise, it is not surprising that the world’s event planners are joining holidaymakers — lured to the country by its sultry climes and resplendent beauty — and looking for an alternative to the more mature MICE markets of Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.
Moreover, by moving beyond the capital city, Hanoi, the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh and into the country’s commercial and educational centre of Danang, event planners and attendees alike will discover a location seemingly designed with the MICE industry in mind
With its growing inventory of attractions and pastimes, including UNESCO World Heritage sites and A-list golf courses designed by some of the Sports of Kings’ biggest players – not to mention the striking looks of Ba Na hill resort, the majesty of Marble Mountains & Linh Ung Pagoda and the diverse flora and fauna found in Son Tra Nature Reserve — Danang is on track to becoming a veritable MICE playground.
Digging deeper, Sherrilyn Charles, director of sales and marketing at Sheraton Grand Danang Resort, told me how Danang compares to other destinations in the region: “I have just got back from a Marriott Roadshow to Australia and New Zealand and, if you look at Vietnam as a whole, it is a very hot destination at the moment.
“MICE planners are starting to stay away from other run-of-the-mill destinations, and they are looking for something different. And that’s where we come in. Vietnam is still untouched and not as commercially driven yet, but it has a really strong cultural aspect. People have never looked at this area as much before and our reputation as a destination of choice, for event organisers, has never been stronger.”
One example of the region’s pulchritude — and the primary attraction of Danang — is, as a resort town, it’s ready to attract, accommodate and entertain even the most seasoned international travellers. It doesn’t hurt that it is also home to one of Asia’s most memorable ocean fronts, which regularly reaches the upper echelons on lists of the world’s best beaches.
Indeed Non-Nuoc beach, located along the coastline of Danang, is widely acknowledged as being beautiful, quiet and untouched – an ideal spot for conference delegates to unwind and re-energise after a long day of drawing in information indoors.
It is all well and good to have unique and memorable tourist attractions, and a beautiful landscape, but without a strong MICE infrastructure supported by local associations and tourism bodies it’s hard to gain traction in this competitive market sector – another area where Danang excels.
As Charles points out: “The tourism association in Danang has been wonderfully supportive of all our endeavours – a major plus for operators in the industry. And though funding is always a challenge, they have been very creative when striving to reach more varied source markets.
“Danang is Korean market-heavy and the tourist body has been great at getting familiarisation groups out of additional markets, such as Northern Europe and Turkey, whose MICE planners have had their eyes opened to the potential of Danang.
“Along with event professionals from Turkey, who take advantage of Turkish Airlines’ direct flights to the country, Scandinavians — who are avid golfers — are seduced by the chance to play the links of Danang’s six world-class courses, have arrived in droves.”
When it comes to golf, Danang is a dream location with those six international courses, including Ba Na Hills Golf Club, Hoiana Shores Golf Club, Laguna Golf Lang Course, Montgomerie Links Vietnam and Vinpearl Golf Nam Hoi An.
The highlight, BRG Danang Golf Course, was designed by former world number one Greg Norman and made an instant splash, as a world-class course, when it took home the Best Course in Asia award from Asian Golf Monthly in 2011, 2012 and 2013, as well as the 2012 Best Golf Course in Vietnam by USA Golf Digest.
With its prime MICE real estate, links to regional associations and tourism bodies and an international reputation for excellence, Sheraton Grand Danang Resort exemplifies the MICE life in the region, as Charles highlighted when I asked about the hotel’s own meetings and events set up.
“We have a huge and versatile conference centre; home to our Grand Ballroom (above) which, on top of its eye-catching looks, can easily host up to 1200 people. I am proud to say we are actually the largest conference space of any international brand hotel in Danang.”
“That said, our key source market is mainly incentive groups and not your traditional conference groups. It’s very much the awards and rewards groups; we do very well in industries where the visual punch of the chosen venue is imperative and helps create a sense of occasion and instil a WOW factor!
“We also have direct beachfront access and a massive 250m lap pool. Not to mention a number of different outdoor options and opportunities to hold exciting events around the pool or on the beach — which is extremely attractive, especially to overseas customers.”