Basking in the global recognition of its rich heritage, the Hanoi Metropole Hotel has recently been awarded the honour of becoming the first Sofitel Legend in the world.
This sub-brand of the Accor family is reserved only for prestigious, heritage hotels and will soon have a presence globally. For background on the hotel see news.
With conservative forecasts predicting 4.5 percent GDP growth for Vietnam this year, the highest in southeast Asia, business visitors to Hanoi might be forgiven for believing that the capital is practically immune to the global recession.
However, the truth is that the country has been deeply affected by the downturn, resulting in a slowdown of foreign investment and fewer leisure visitors. International arrivals are down 25 percent compared to last year.
According to real estate firm CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) Vietnam, Hanoi’s five-star hotels enjoyed only 50 percent occupancy in the second quarter of this year, a 15 percent decline on last year.
The upside is that five-star hotel room prices have settled down, now averaging around US150 per night according to CBRE, after several years of spiralling rates as demand outstripped supply.
If there’s one hotel in the city that can say that it has seen it all, it is the Hotel Metropole Hanoi, which opened in what was then French Indochina in 1901.
Kai Speth, general manager, Hotel Metropole Hanoi, is proud that recent additions and expansions in the hotel, such as the new Angelina steakhouse, an expanded area at the bar and snack outlet Le Club, and a new luxury spa don’t undermine the Metropole’s distinctive historical ambience.
He’s also keen to stress that the Metropole is no quaint museum-piece but a living, developing hotel that blends its historical lineage with modern facilities, ideal for business and leisure visitors alike.
Speaking to Business Traveller, Speth says: “It’s a hotel that gels.
“For the business traveller, service is the essential element. We understand our customers’ needs. Out location is excellent and we’re convenient for getting around Hanoi, unlike some other business hotels that are on the outskirts of the city.
“We recognised that business travellers need to keep in touch, with their office and with what’s happening elsewhere in the world. They need reliable and stable internet connections so we have invested in that. We also offer the largest selection of television channels in Vietnam and here it is very expensive to add channels.
“We also know that many business travellers come here on project assignments for weeks at a time, so it’s very important they feel at home.”
The most important change he believes is that in the past, the Metropole was seen as a hotel for foreigners, either the local expatriate community or for overseas visitors.
While those are still important markets, Speth says that now the hotel has now become “the true social centre of Hanoi”. This reflects the growing sophistication of the domestic market. This is a point also emphasised by Carl Gagnon, executive assistant manager in charge of food and beverage, who points out that the Metropole has actually seen its revenues increase in this area, fuelled largely by patronage from local Vietnamese citizens.
Speth believes the key to the Metropole is its ability to balance business and leisure needs. The hotel has a healthy 50-50 balance of the sectors, he says.
For further details see www.sofitel.com