Breaking Travel News Interview: Pascal Caubo, hotel manager, InterContinental Asiana Saigon

Breaking Travel News Interview: Pascal Caubo, hotel manager, InterContinental Asiana Saigon

As visitors continue to flock to Vietnam, the recently opened InterContinental Asiana Saigon provides a welcome retreat for leisure and business travellers. Mr. Pascal Caubo, hotel manager of the InterContinental Asiana Saigon Hotel & InterContinental Asiana Saigon Residences, updates Breaking Travel News on the properties latest developments.

Breaking Travel News: How have occupancy levels been at the InterContinental Asiana Saigon in 2012?

Pascal Caubo:InterContinental Asiana Saigon has performed well in terms of occupancy levels since its opening two and a half year ago. We ended the year in 2011 successfully with key performance indicators above budget.

We experienced some fluctuations in the first quarter of 2012, mirroring world economic trends. However, we’ve still been able to maintain our lead in the market with occupancy levels in the 80’s. Our team continues to work diligently to maintain this and we believe we are in this strong position because we are constantly evolving to adapt to the needs of our customers.

BTN What new initiatives or developments at the property do you have in the pipeline?

PC: Our property is equipped with the latest in technology and state-of-the-art facilities that make us the preferred choice for our guests who want luxury and convenience.

Our rooms are equipped with iHome stations, Wifi, DVD players and surround sound systems. iPads are also available for guest usage at either our concierge lounge or club lounge. Late last year, a new room type called Superior Deluxe Room was created to tailor to the needs of all business travelers to help them stay connected.

Our skillful Food & Beverage team is working on special project to develop a new alfresco bar concept which will be in front of our hotel. In addition we are implementing a new training program for our teams in order to continue to be the market leader in providing an excellent and memorable experience to all guests.

BTN:How is tourism faring in Vietnam? What types of travellers is the destination attracting?

PC:Tourist arrivals in Vietnam are growing exponentially – including tourists coming from within the region itself. According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), the country welcomed over 6 million international visitors in 2011, an increase of 19.10% compared to 2010. For first quarter of 2012, the country welcomed 2,493,726 international travellers which is an increase of 22.90% compared with the same period last year.

Vietnam is a country that offers a variety of attractions to different type of travellers. While main cities like Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi or Danang attract both leisure and business travellers, familiarisation trips, government visits, and delegations, there are still places for mainly leisure travelers such as Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, Cam Ranh.

According to report from Vietnam Economic News on 7 April 2012, Vietnam still maintains its strong MICE attraction position within the region besides Malaysia, Laos and Singapore. The increase of MICE visitors reaches to 2 digits compared to 2010 and 2011. Those positive results are an indicator that we could look forward to a very positive 2012 for tourism in Vietnam.

BTN: What new regional markets are you targeting in coming months?

PC:Our hotel continues to focus on attracting individual business travellers and MICE travellers. In 2010 and 2011 we were awarded Vietnam’s Leading Hotel by World Travel Awards and Best MICE Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City by Ho Chi Minh City Department of Sport, Culture & Tourism. We have been able to host many international and regional events in our Grand Ballroom, which is the largest and pillar-less in Saigon. Our hotel facilities and services also cater to the leisure travellers who are an important part of our business.

BTN: Are you noticing any new travleler trends?

PC: These days, travellers looks for a chance to maximise the experience at any destination they travel to. For the MICE market, organizers tend to look for a destination that is more than just a meeting and accommodation venue; A place that can inspire and enhance the trip experience for every delegate. For business, leisure or any other visit, travelers will enjoy opportunities to explore the local surroundings and to experience the local flavor of the city.

Whether it’s the leisure or business visits, we are able to fulfill all the requirements. Through the InterContinental Meetings programme, our local knowledge and expertise, we deliver our “In The Know” services that connect our guests and residents to the pulse of contemporary Saigon, by providing them access to authentic and enriching experiences.

BTN: To what extent is social media and mobile technologies a priority for you? What types of initiatives do you have in place?

PC: Social media definitely has become a key communication tool for us. We have seen increasingly that travelers tend to review hotels online and this has a huge influence on potential guests who are considering making a booking at our hotel. 

At IHG, we are certainly establishing our foothold in the social media space. We have a dedicated team looking after our social media channels both at the corporate level, as well as at the brand and property level. We determine how to use social media to market our hotels, how to best interact with the space and how to use these channels to strengthen guest relationships.

Our marketing communications team here at the InterContinental Asiana Saigon continues to maximize the use of different channels including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, QR, Pinterest, Foursquare, etc.

We regularly offer both F&B as well as accommodation promotions specifically tailored to these social media channels as we believe in its potential. As a result, we see more people following us on these channels and talking about us online.

BTN: You have been nominated for two World Travel Awards this year including Asia’s Leading Business Hotel. What does it mean to have been nominated for these awards?

PC: We are proud of the awards and achievements in the last two years and we are very excited to be nominated again this year at the prestigious   World Travel Awards. It reflects the dedication that our team has to guest satisfaction and their commitment to making us become one of the Great Hotels Guests Love. We have been successfully positioning our hotel and residences at the forefront of the Ho Chi Minh City and these awards are an encouragement to our teams.

BTN: What differentiates InterContinental Asiana Saigon from other properties in the region? What sets you apart?

PC: InterContinental Asiana Saigon is one of the most luxurious hotels in town with elegant business and leisure facilities. We are in a great location and neighbour to most of Saigon’s major business buildings, consulates, tourist attractions, historic sites and shopping spots. We have premiere meeting facilities, utilizing the latest in technology and state-of-the-art facilities. Our ballroom is one of the largest and is also pillar-less, making it a great event space, with 5 other small to medium size meeting rooms also on the same level, for delegates’ convenience.

People are the most important factor for any organization, especially in the hospitality industry. At InterContinental Asiana Saigon we believe great people, who share great values with great ways of working, create a great company. Our people make the difference between like and love. Guests could like our beds, towels and restaurants, but it is our people who provide great service and ensure that our guests will return.  Our dedication to training and developing our people results in great customer service which differentiates us.

BTN: What are the main challenges that you are currently facing and how are you dealing with these?

PC: With the world economy on the brink of another downturn, we have been working on how to adapt by adjusting our strategy to react to the potential decline in business travel.

For the leisure travel market, our hotel coordinates with worldwide, regional and local agencies by offering special seasonal rates and added value tailored for each specific geographic market.

To ensure the business travelers enjoy the most convenience in our hotel, different packages have been created depending on their own needs such as room with internet, room with meeting facilities, transportation, etc. In addition IHG has created the Best Rate Guarantee offer, which guarantees all travelers enjoy the best of our rates when making bookings.

BTN: What are your main goals and priorities for the next 12 months?

PC: Besides delivering our business results as budgets, we are continuously working hard to maintain our leading position in all aspects including outstanding customer service and the well trained team with full spirit to serve in mind.

According to local government plan, there will be at least another two 5 star hotels open by middle of next year around our vicinity. These additional services and facilities will enhance our city’s infrastructure, but will also offer challenges to us in both business and personnel control. We’re tightening our close relationship with both corporate accounts and people to reduce the affect at the lowest level.

Supporting the local community where we do business to ensure sustainable development is also part of our continuous priorities.

BTN:Is it a bright outlook for travel and tourism in Vietnam in 2012 and beyond?

PC: Vietnam as a destination remains popular and is one of the must-see venues in the Asia Australasia region for tourists. Aside from main cities like Ho Chi Minh City, places like Hoi An, Da Nang and Nha Trang are drawing visitors with their beautiful beaches and resorts that can be compared to places in Thailand. The local government is also working hard to attract both business investors and travelers to the country by building up efficient and solid infrastructure as well as offering attractive benefits to investors. A new tourism strategy with the slogan “Vietnam – Timeless Charm” has also been launched by the government recently and targets to attract up to 6.6 million foreign and 32 million domestic travelers in 2012.

Moreover, the Vietnamese people embody service and hospitality characteristics crucial to the tourism industry – they are hospitable, hardworking and open to trying new things as well. This is a key competitive advantage that serves to enhance Vietnam’s tourism development in the near future.