New flight routes and visa policies, coupled with competitive pricing and a mushrooming of hotel and venue infrastructure mean Vietnam has made great strides in attracting business events in recent years.

But beyond popular meeting and incentive destinations such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), secondary cities are beginning to gain traction; and seeking a slice of the MICE pie.

In the lead-up to the APEC Leaders’ Summit in Danang this November, a number of workshops and meetings in places like Can Tho, Halong and Nha Trang are also helping to attract the attention of regional planners and global corporate companies looking to host authentic, experiential events.

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CEI Asia recently visited Vietnam to unearth its hidden event gems. Here's what we found... 

Halong

UNESCO World natural Heritage Site Halong Bay, four hours’ drive from Hanoi, is the top draw up north. Hotels with meeting facilities include Vinpearl, Wyndham Legend and Novotel. Sun World Halong Complex has a roller coaster, ferris wheel, cable car and waterpark.

Halong Bay (source: VNAT)


Sarah Randall, Buffalo Events regional MICE manager, says: “As an incentive destination, Halong is an attractive alternative for small-group meetings with a difference, such as a charter cruise with supporting social programme elements.”

For regional meetings, B. Subhash Chandar, business development manager—MICE of Asia DMC suggests going straight to Halong on arrival in Hanoi. “Schedule one to two days’ meeting, then stay overnight on a cruise boat with daytime activities such as kayaking and cave visit. Drive back to Hanoi next day for city sightseeing, shopping and farewell dinner.”

Vinpearl


Exo Events Vietnam MICE/events manager Lise Papay Jurgens notes: “Local authorities are getting stricter with the site of Halong Bay and no longer allow cave and beach catering. It will slow down a bit as these were highlights.”

Buffalo Events reports a rise in requests for more remote areas such as Sapa and community-based tourism in Mai Chau village. Exo Events also favours less-frequented spots.

Dalat

Nestled 1,500m up in the southern Central Highlands, Dalat is just 40 minutes’ flying time from HCMC and under two hours’ from Hanoi. Some say Dalat only suits the local market and honeymooners, but there are several attractions and activities for small incentive groups.

The hill station’s French past is seen in splendid hotels such as Dalat Palace (1922) and Du Parc (1932), with halls for up to 600 and 400 people respectively; and the grounds and palace (1929) of Bao Dai, Vietnam’s last emperor.

Golden Valley, Dalat


Groups can meander through a flower nursery with colourful blooms or take a forest ecotour. The night market is beside Xuan Huong Lake in the city centre, where many hotels are located.

Getting to the base of Datanla Waterfall can be done the easy way—by cable car—or walking down a rough stone path. But the adrenaline rush comes from the short, ‘roller coaster-style’ toboggan ride. More strenuous and fun are zip lining or abseiling through the canyon.

Golfers will appreciate the pine tree-lined, undulating slopes and scenic lakes of Dalat Golf Club, an 18-hole championship course.

Nha Trang

Nha Trang city is served by Cam Ranh Airport, a one-hour flight from HCMC. Despite the influx of Chinese and Russian tourists, corporate groups could enjoy the facilities of city hotels and beach resorts – including meeting spaces – and venture farther afield to discover some history and culture.

Enjoy panoramic hilltop views while learning about Cham architecture at Po Nagar Tower Complex; take a boat ride down Cai River to observe village life; cycle through picturesque villages and stop at an orchard or local market.

Diamond Bay Resort & Spa


Another day can be spent offshore at Mun Island or Mieu Island, with a tour of the fishing village and seafood lunch.

Vinpearl offers three different properties, plus theme park. Among global hotel brands are InterContinental, Sheraton and Novotel, while local players include Muong Thanh, Costa, Diamond Bay and MerPerle Hon Tam.

For quiet relaxation, Exo Events recommends the Cam Ranh strip, at resorts like The Anam. Asia DMC suggests Vung Tau as an add-on beach destination to HCMC, being two hours’ drive away.

Can Tho

A 3.5-hour drive from HCMC and few upscale hotels with meeting facilities have worked against Can Tho in the past, but new hotels are sprouting up. Muong Thanh, TTC Hotel Premium and Vinpearl can host events for 1,200, 600 and 500 people respectively.

Cai Rang floating market (source: VNAT)


Diethelm Travel Vietnam offers several river cruise itineraries. Its managing director, Jeff Redl, says: “The two-day ‘Mighty Mekong River Cruise' can be chartered or adapted for small groups of up to 70 people, depending on which cruise fleet to use for a day or overnight cruise.”

Cai Rang floating market and Ninh Kieu night market are the city’s mainstays. New orchard attractions also offer rowing and fishing. Other diversions include cycling through the countryside, planting or harvesting rice, cooking and eating with villagers and CSR activities.

“It may work for a small incentive or meeting group. We could do team-building and meetings in some unique venues in and around Can Tho,” says Asia DMC’s Subhash.

The Anam


Planning tips:

  • Halong Bay: No cave dinners; but dinner at Ban Chan Beach is still possible, maximum 300 pax.
  • Group size: Many second-tier destinations can’t manage big groups – lack of accommodation and meeting facilities, transportation, equipment, catering and trained staff.
  • Meals: Halal food is hard to find, even in major cities. Also for Hindu vegetarians and Chinese who don’t eat beef and mutton—plan/book ahead.

DMC market profiles:

  • Asia DMC can host groups of 10 to 1,000; Japanese consumer electronics, insurance; mostly distributors and sales staff.
  • Buffalo Events can cater to groups of 8 to 200; educational, insurance, financial, manufacturing and others; incentive groups from Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong), Australia, UK/Europe, USA.
  • Diethelm Travel Vietnam has planned events for groups of 200 to 900; IT, banking and pharmaceutical; incentives from Singapore, Hong Kong, UK and Central Europe. 
     

Main image: Strawberry picking in Dalat