2021 is still a challenging year, but there are always opportunities in difficulties. “April showers bring May flowers”, along with the reopening of trade, the tourism industry is on the way to resume and everyone can hope for a brighter future. Let’s listen to the sharing from representatives of businesses in the tourism industry about their past year, and how they expect to renew themselves in the new year!

Mr. Daniel Solombrino, Hotel Manager at InterContinental Saigon Hotel & Residences, said: “If using one word to describe the past year, I would choose “Disruption”. All of us have been through many incredible and challenging unprecedented situations.”

Nevertheless, according to him, disruption is not just a challenging or a negative term. In business theory, disruptive innovation is an innovation that can create new markets and value networks and eventually can displace established market-leading firms, products and alliances. This is precisely how Hospitality had to evolve itself to remain alive with a complete shift of focus on technology, cleaning protocols, flexible workforce, real estate, reinventing over and over again,…

Clay Clayton, General Manager of Fusion Suites Vung Tau, thinks that 2021 is the year of “Adaptation”. We had to adapt from social distancing regulations at different levels and manage our business to adapt to these regulations, to stricter restrictions on no business, lockdowns, curfews and then extreme lockdowns. “There was a lot of planning, revised plans and new plans – it was a nonstop journey of ‘adaptation’.”

Meanwhile, “flexibility” has been particularly focused by Vietnam Airlines in the past year. Covid-19 has extinguished the hopes of Vietnamese airlines to fly, especially during the two most important peak seasons, the Lunar New Year and summer travel. Regular international flight routes have also been closed for the whole year. “But learning from experiences in 2020, Vietnam Airlines has had a very proactive and flexible year – flexible in how to face difficulties, and find opportunities to fly, as well as flexible to adapt and constantly evolve even in the most difficult times,” said Mr. Le Hong Ha, General Director of Vietnam Airlines.

Sailing the Lux Group “cruise” through the “big storm”, Mr. Pham Ha, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Lux Group, comments 2021 with the word “difficult”. However, the group has been able to operate continuously for the past 2 years thanks to its innovation and quick adaptation from international luxury to domestic luxury market. He said: “We don’t choose to be the biggest but the greatest. Lux Group is mainly self-reliant, saving itself during the pandemic. The big storms require a great captain. To be grateful is knowing we’re happy and have enough, we’re still alive means we still dream and hope. We are always ready to wake up whenever the government turns the button ON.”

For Mr. Daniel Solombrino, challenges and difficulties taught him again how to constantly reinvent himself and the surrounding environment, how to adapt to unpredictable situations and not accept the status quo. “My biggest takeaway was certainly around being flexible and efficient. Automation as a new standard, despite that the trend started way before 2021, has definitely accelerated and shifted traditional hospitality trends. We all certainly learned to manage expectations and try to prepare for the unknown,” he said.

There are times when we thought that difficulties and regulations would be eased, but then the social distancing regulations became tighter and tighter, and everyone always had to find new ways to adapt. Mr. Clay Clayton said that this process has helped Fusion Suites Vung Tau have a plan to quickly adapt to the situation during operation.

The hotel outlined more detailed strategies to see what was essential and find ways to reduce costs, to be more efficient and flexible, to reinforce responsibilities and ways of caring for their very important team members. “I think this past year has given us a new, much deeper level of understanding of our people and businesses.”

For carriers like Vietnam Airlines, when they were not allowed to carry passengers, the airline rapidly switched to transporting cargo for revenue, being the first airline in Vietnam to remove passenger seats to increase the loading area. “We have also tried to expand a new field of business – e-commerce, and looked for a new opportunity in the US route. These efforts have helped us offset some of the damage caused by Covid-19. Therefore, although 2021 was a long and difficult year, Vietnam Airlines has become much stronger and braver thanks to the flexibility,” Mr. Le Hong Ha affirmed.

There are also the adaptability and flexibility that have helped Lux ​​Group keep it up during the epidemic. It is known that Lux Group 100% served international guests before Covid. When Covid hit, the group quickly converted to high-end domestic customers and succeeded through its plans in 2020. “During the 4th lockdown, we still retained key workforce, actively hibernated, ready to welcome international and domestic guests. We have built a strong corporate culture and focus on our customers.”

Mr. Pham Ha continued: “We did our best for our business, staff and customers, allowed flexible cancellations, created motivation and attracted visitors. Our slogan is ‘Build Back Better,’ from the ashes to rebuild a better and more sustainable world.”

“A positive mindset brings positive things, so please let 2022 be the year to write your own successful story,” said Mr. Daniel Solombrino. “I stopped having clear expectations because the pandemic progress and its impact is impossible to predict.” Nevertheless, he believes that the hospitality industry will have to further adapt to the new normal and be fast in terms of additional tech implementation strategies, increase channels of communication, leverage the pre-stay communication with clients to increase potential revenue streams, and focus on new revenue streams.

Currently, vaccination levels in Vietnam are increasing fast, giving people more confidence to return to a normal life. Tourism began to show signs of prosperity and steady growth since restrictions were lifted. According to Mr. Clay Clayton, the domestic market will account for the majority in the first half of 2022, with a slow increase in the international market in the second half of the year. “It is going to be a long and challenging process to get our industry back on track again. The international market will play a very important role with the injection of foreign dollars into the industry, which will increase the speed of recovery.”

We have learnt so many lessons through the past year, and had to deal with challenges that we would never be able to predict. “Some we overcame and some we did not. However, we are still here and we are stronger. Let’s learn from the experience, put 2021 behind us and focus on a new year – a year of recovery, new opportunities, big achievements and new success,” Mr. Clay Clayton optimistically said.

Although the current situation is better, we must not neglect it because the epidemic is still complicated and unpredictable. Mr. Le Hong Ha said that Vietnam Airlines had built hypothetical scenarios to be ready to respond in any situation. It is predicted that Vietnam’s aviation industry needs at least 2-3 years to recover to 2019 levels, so the airline will continue to maintain cost-cutting and cost-saving measures, while looking for opportunities to develop its business as well as contribute to the recovery of the economy and tourism.

He said: “I want to wish everyone a healthy and peaceful new year. I would also like to send my wishes to those working in the tourism industry to always keep the love and passion for the career, as well as the bravery, quickness to adapt to any fluctuations and be optimist into the future ahead. The crisis will pass and the tourism industry will surely shine again.”

In 2022, Mr. Pham Ha said that Lux Group would be towards recovery and will grow from 2023. The group has planned to achieve revenue by 50% in 2019 by putting all its efforts into sales, seeking and partnering with experts and investors sharing the same goals. Lux Group will also come up with new products, services and ideas for domestic and foreign customers. “Covid-19 helped us discover that Vietnam is a huge luxury travel market. Customers increasingly have taste and love the cultural stories we are telling. The proof is that our yachts were fully booked until the end of summer 2020, and the yachts on the occasion of the Lunar New Year are also fully booked.”

According to Mr. Pham Ha, Vietnam has many competitive advantages in the 4.0 era. Three areas Vietnam can take a shortcut and develop rapidly are tourism, agriculture and information technology. Lux Group will strongly invest in these three sectors. He emphasized: “Now it’s time to be grateful and enjoy the festive season, to welcome the new year of the Tiger 2022 as strong and flexible as a tiger! May everyone have a new year full of joy, new goals, new achievements and lots of new inspirations for life.”

#Take-A-Sip is a series exploiting new perspectives from experts on striking issues in tourism and travel.

New Year’s talk: Expectations and Renewal

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