Zannier Hotels is a French hotel company founded in 2011 and ever since, it has been trying to create authentic stories between the hotel’s design, the surrounding nature and local culture. Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô is the latest property of this luxury hotel group that arose to the top list for hotel design by TripAdvisor, Travel+Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler.

Destination Review had a talk with Mr. Michaël Wirz, Resort Manager at Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô to listen to the story he wants to convey through the significant and culture-inspired design.

First, we thought expanding in Vietnam would be the next clever move for us as we are looking for a place to open our second property in Asia after Zannier Hotels Phum Baitang in Cambodia. Vietnam is one of the Asian countries with the fastest-growing economy at the moment and a lot of our target customers – who are young and modern-day seekers as well as young professionals that want to escape for a short holiday – to discover more about the country, are living and working here in Vietnam. So we thought it was logical to establish here.

Mr. Arnaud Zannier, our founder, discovered a private place in Phu Yen carefully protected by the previous owner when it was on sale. He was astonished by the beauty of the one-kilometer long white beach and then decided to choose it to be the next location for a new property. At Zannier Hotels, we usually prefer not to go for the easy options. We prefer to discover hidden gems and try to show the real beauty of the country, far from mass tourism and where people do not usually expect. We really want to showcase the country and its culture in an authentic way, and Phu Yen is just pure gold as it is beautiful, not polluted and quite well-preserved compared to other places in Vietnam. Among the combination of all these features that drove us into investing in a new property in Phu Yen, the beauty of the destination itself plays the most crucial role.

We were lucky enough to not have any major delays in construction and we were able to open on time despite the context (lockdowns and terrible weather). Of course, all of us did have several discussions to decide whether we should postpone the opening or take the risk and open in such a critical period. All our teams were excited about opening the resort, so we decided to slightly postpone the opening from the original schedule – which was August during summer season – to December, hoping that travels would resume at this time. Fortunately, our clientele is so loyal that they even decide on their trips based on where we would open our properties. We receive emails from the guests almost every week, and they continuously ask about our next properties. We realized that we had a lot of expectations from the guests, and that was the key point for our decision to open last December.

By opening during the pandemic, we also wanted to spread the positive message that Vietnam is still doing well and that we were ready to open our doors in a very safe way. Although the whole world was stopping, we were ready, and we had on-site teams who could not wait to greet guests. Most importantly, we had the demand from the Vietnamese guests although we were not yet able to welcome international travelers to our resort. Eventually, the opening was a real success. All the people who came in December when we first opened were really happy and in just two months, we made it to the top of TripAdvisor.

Opening of Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô has been challenging, but no opening is easy I guess. Coronavirus made it more difficult for us as we could not know what was going to happen next nor how many guests would be able to come given the travel restrictions, the quarantine, etc. However, there were no major issues, except maybe harsh weather conditions. We were prepared but the major monsoon in November was hard. A few days before our opening, we had to clean the whole resort because of it. It was stressful, but it definitely remains a memorable event. Besides, we had to change our way of working a year before the opening, as no one from our headquarters team was able to go on-site. We had to entirely rely on our local suppliers and partners. Imagine installing a whole resort via Zoom. For a one-hundred-hectare resort, there were thousands of objects to be placed and we had to adjust the whole thing through a computer screen from several corners of the world. We did not view it as a challenge but rather a fun and rewarding experience, as well as a good memory. We realized that it is possible to pull off the opening of a resort from the other side of the globe.

The good thing about opening during the pandemic is that we already integrated new measures before we started welcoming guests. As the pandemic was going on, we noticed a few back turns already, so we focused even more on health & safety, reinforcing our standard cleaning procedures including disinfectants, wearing shields, masks and so on.

Nowadays, most travelers are concerned about privacy, isolation, tailormade luxury services, space and remoteness. We offer it all at Zannier Hotels. The crisis somehow reinforced our competitive advantage because in all our properties worldwide, we are off-the-beaten tracks in extraordinary places with no crowd. We are surrounded by nature, with independent villas apart from each other, so very low-density buildings. More than 96 percent of Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô resort is covered by nature; out of the one hundred hectares, there are only three hectares with buildings, including the beach.

Since the beginning of Zannier Hotels, we always strived to build places away from mass tourism, and now our concept just perfectly matches with what travelers are looking for after the pandemic. We have human-scale resorts where people can spend a holiday with their family or friends, stay comfortably in their comfortable villa, in their bubble if they wish without interacting with other guests.

Now people expect more privacy and more personalization, all of which are being implemented and reinforced in our hotels. More guests prefer to call room services because they want to keep in their bubble. So, we are enhancing our services to offer them whatever they want from the comfort of their room, from room services to massages through for instance our hotel app that will be launched this summer.

Guests can spend and enjoy their holidays by staying within the resort, or they can also go out and explore the surroundings, visiting local villages, authentic craft houses and markets, or attending cooking sessions. Of course, all the activities we offer are Covid-safe and strictly follow the latest regulations of the country.

All the architectural styles we have at Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô concentrate on local inspiration. We tried our best to intertwine the Vietnamese culture and history with the modern standard of a five-star hotel. All the decorations were locally sourced or manufactured. We choose each piece of interiors to fit the history, and reflect the notion of timelessness.

We did use concepts that can match with one another. Also, with such a low density of buildings, you cannot realize the difference in architecture from one place to another. The unity of the whole Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô resort, like for all other properties of the group, is ensured through a careful attention to textures and use of natural materials that make everything timeless. We rather want an architecture that evolves and improves with the time passing instead of a temporarily marked design. We work a lot with clay, thatched roofs, stones and wood because they look better through time despite changing in color. That is how we remind the past without confronting the present. At the end of the day, we want the future generations to know what their great-grand generation used to build. That is how we ensure unity in our design of the whole resort.

Besides, we have paths that naturally lead one area to another in unique ways that make our guests feel like they are going on an adventure whenever they go to the beach or to the main restaurant. At Bãi San Hô, we have the chance to work with amazing landscaping designers for gardens, pathways, essential lighting systems, etc. allowing us to create the perfect atmosphere for the entire resort. It was also essential to build something that was ecologically sustainable. We created huge tree nursery fields, in order to plant only endemic tree species onsite and vegetation from Phu Yen instead of importing palms from far. We did not want to interfere too much with the environment, including all the fauna and flora living there. For instance during our construction process, we avoided any unnecessary disturbance to the place. We have tried our best to make villas and pathways not too visible so they do not destroy the natural landscape nor intervene with the established wildlife.

For us, hospitality is not just about welcoming guests and offering them a nice experience. Nowadays, travelers look for experiences, for stories, for souvenirs that are not materialistic in their trip. Moments they can remember. This is why we won’t be planning to enlarge the resort for instance. When we design a place, we consider an appropriate size and create concepts in consideration of the surrounding atmosphere and nature. One may say we could surely enhance our revenue by adding more villas but doing so, the atmosphere and balance of the whole place would be changed, so we prefer not to. Enlarging the resort will impact the privacy and exclusive feeling of our guests. That is why we favour human-scale resorts and are looking at development projects in line with the environment, such as a hydroponic garden or an aromatic herbs garden.

Regarding the offers, all our services are accessible at the moment, despite the context. When the demand grows, we surely will reinforce our recruitment to offer more personalized services, like having more guides to take our guests on tailor-made adventures, because inspiring life’s greatest stories is our goal at Zannier Hotels.

BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT | The art of storytelling through design with Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô

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