hotel in Saigon

Vietnam's hotspot hotels going for the gold online

Hotels in Vietnam are raking in the dough by favoring individual bookings made on foreign travel websites that charge exorbitant rates, which is gouging local travel agencies seeking to secure reservations for larger tour groups

Several Ho Chi Minh City tourism companies were recently unable to make reservations for a group of 50 tourists on Phu Quoc Island because they wanted to stay in the same hotel.

But it was not because the hotels did not have enough available rooms.

Minh Thanh, manager of a tourism company in HCMC said no resort on Phu Quoc agreed to book rooms for all 50 tourists.

“It’s tourism high season and they want to save the rooms for individual tourists,” she added.

Many hotels and resorts in Vietnam are prioritizing individual bookings made online over tour groups that book through local travel agencies, as it is more profitable. These hotels have colluded with foreign travel websites to keep room rates sky high, which is making Vietnam a less appealing tourist destination than other regional countries, experts say.

The director of a five-star hotel in HCMC wishing to remain anonymous said there are around ten foreign websites targeting both foreign and domestic tourists that offer hotel rooms in Vietnam.

“Thirty-five percent of our hotel’s revenue came from guests booking through foreign travel websites and this proportion is expected to increase in the future,” he said.

Most hotels pay foreign travel websites commissions of between 15-25 percent of room rates with both parties allegedly agreeing to charge inflated prices to maximize profits.

Director of a local booking website, who also wanted to remain anonymous, said he can make a profit selling rooms at lower rates, but was unable to do so because the hotels wanted to keep the room rates consistent for all travel websites.

“For example, we can charge VND1.5 million (US$71) for a room, while foreign websites offer it for VND2 million ($95),” he said.

Phan Dinh Hue, director of the Vong Tron Viet (Viet Circle) Tourism Company in HCMC, said room rates in Vietnam are 20-40 percent higher than those in Thailand.

“Many hotels now only receive guests who book overpriced rooms online and refuse bookings requested by travel agencies during tourism’s high seasons.

“Many international tourists are afraid to come to Vietnam for fear of being ripped-off that way, while local tourists are shifting toward visiting other countries,” he said. “Vietnam’s tourism industry is becoming less competitive.”

Thanh, the manager of a HCMC travel agency, admitted that her company often suggests that local tourists consider going abroad when she fails to find hotel rooms for them in Vietnam.

  “In the hotel’s history, we have a story of the American folk singer, Joan Baez, who sought shelter in this bunker during the Christmas Bombings, and who sang some songs beside a Vietnamese guitarist,” said the hotel’s general manager Kai Speth.

“We’ve always known a bunker was here, somewhere in the garden between the pool and the Club Bar, but looking for this wasn’t even on our radar screen until my chief engineer tried to sink pilings for the new Bamboo Bar,” he said.

“The hotel is still undecided about how best to utilize the underground space, but Speth is determined to make something of this novel asset, if only as a museum that shines a light on ways and means of Vietnamese resistance during the war,” said a press release issued by the hotel.

“We don’t know of any other hotels, in Vietnam or anywhere else for that matter, that maintained shelters for guests and staff,” said Speth.

“The Metropole’s standing as a hotel in a war zone garnered feature play on the cover of Life magazine, April 7, 1967. The magazine features a row of manholes, about 1.5 metres deep that line a sidewalk outside the hotel. Those manholes did not connect to the hotel’s more spacious shelter but testify to life in a city under siege by American aircraft,” said the release.

Hanoi hotel opens wartime bomb shelter as memorial

The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel will open a recently discovered bunker as part of its ‘Path of History’ exhibition, which details the history of the French colonial landmark.

Discovered, by chance, a year ago in the hotel’s back garden, the air raid shelter will be officially opened as an attraction on May 21.

“Hotels are always opening new outlets,” said Kai Speth, the hotel’s general manager. “New restaurants, new bars, new spas. But it’s not everyday that a hotel opens an old bomb shelter.”

The 40-square-meter shelter has been preserved in its original state as a tribute to the hotel’s wartime employees, who ushered guests into the relative safety of the underground chamber from the mid-1960s through the Christmas bombings in 1972.

“The hotel shelter is a long, narrow, semi-subterranean concrete room, which I thought would have made a groovy discotheque,” wrote Gemma Cruz Araneta, a Filipino journalist in a May 1968 journal entry.


Underground war bunker found under Hanoi’s Metropole hotel

Araneta will attend the May 21 ceremony, so will Bob Devereaux, an Australian diplomat who scratched his name into a wall of the shelter in 1975, and Andreas Augustin, a historian who has written a book about the hotel’s history.

The show will feature 13 exhibition plates along the hotel corridor, introducing more than 300 celebrity guests, including Charlie Chaplin, Graham Greene, Jane Fonda, Joan Baez and Angelina Jolie.

Fire at construction site of Hanoi 5-star hotel, no casualties reported

The construction site of the 5-star JW Marriott Hanoi Hotel immersed in smoke on Thursday

A fire broke out at the construction site of a US$130 million five-star hotel being built in Hanoi, but no casualties were reported.

Witnesses said at around 3 p.m. that day they saw smoke coming from the first floor of the nine-storey JW Marriott Hotel while thousands of laborers were hard at wore. All the workers escaped the blaze without injury.

Seven fire trucks were mobilized to the site and the fire was extinguished within 20 minutes.