Loyola Marymouth University's EMBA Trip to Vietnam
"It was obvious to all of us that Vietnam still has much room for growth in the hotel and hospitality field although certain areas are clearly overbuilt. Staff development is still a challenge..."
We started our visit in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) which is the business center of the country and along with the five surrounding provinces forms the Southern Key Economic Zone (SKEZ). This area produces over 60% of the whole countries GDP and you can see it in the increased prosperity, number of businesses and in the hustle and bustle of economic activity that makes the city special. Our trip was supported by Nguyen Cao Van of Vietnam Alive travel who worked with me to build the program and reach out for speakers and who we have worked with for years. Van is in my view one of the best travel agency professionals in Vietnam and is building a growing business assisting travelers to do customized programs that give them a deeper understanding of Vietnam.
The first day, we started out with a short half day program of sightseeing followed by lectures by myself and others on Vietnam’s history, culture and more recent economic and business development. In the afternoon, we visited the US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City where we heard from Deputy Consul General Robert Ogburn, Senior Commercial Officer Patrick Wall and the post’s Economic Officer to discuss further Vietnam and to answer questions. We also got a chance to tour the grounds and hear about the history of the compound plus to see some of the consular operations during our walk about. That afternoon we visited the Jesuit Center in Vietnam where we learned further of the role of the Jesuits in Vietnam both historically and today from Father Giulietti.
The next day we had a truly excellent talk on the growth of tour boat or cruise industry development in Vietnam before meeting with the management of the Duxton Hotel who gave us an in-depth look at their own hotels development. The next day was a whole day visit to Binh Duong province to meet with Becamex, Vietnam’s leading industrial park operator, infrastructure company and one of the largest real estate companies in Vietnam. Becamex which has over 30 subsidiary companies is doing many innovative things in terms of development in Vietnam and we visited the Binh Duong New City, My Phuoc Industrial City and many other developments. Later in the afternoon we met with Eastern International University (EIU) which is a modern campus-based University offering programs in business taught in English language plus programs in engineering and nursing to currently about 3,000 students. We had an excellent lecture there by Becamex’s hotel specialist who also teaches at EIU on Vietnam’s hotel and hospitality sector with a focus on challenges and opportunities for development.
The next day we spent in the Mekong Delta giving the EMBAs a view of Vietnam’s more rural areas. That night on our return to Ho Chi Minh City we met and had a presentation on Ho Chi Minh Cities hospitality sector from Tao Van Nghe, General Manager of the Five Start Rex Hotel and Head of the HCMC Hotel Association. Mr. Tao was the first Vietnamese to be named head of a five star hotel in Vietnam and has been a leader in building Vietnam’s hotel and hospitality business. We really were lucky to get him to speak to us since he had just returned from international travel to the biggest European tourism conference and show.
About the Author:
Christopher W. Runckel, a former senior US diplomat who served in many counties in Asia, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark Law School. He served as Deputy General Counsel of President Gerald Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board. Mr. Runckel is the principal and founder of Runckel & Associates, a Portland, Oregon based consulting company that assists businesses expand business opportunities in Asia. (www.business-in-asia.com)
Until April of 1999, Mr. Runckel was Minister-Counselor of the US Embassy in Beijing, China. Mr. Runckel lived and worked in Thailand for over six years. He was the first permanently assigned U.S. diplomat to return to Vietnam after the Vietnam War. In 1997, he was awarded the U.S. Department of States highest award for service, the Distinguished Honor Award, for his contribution to improving U.S.-Vietnam relations.
In March, 2014 our company arranged a program of visits for Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles focussed on the hospitality sector including hotels, entertainment parks, etc. The reasons for the visit was that LMU’s Executive MBA program which we have worked with for 8 years wanted to have a “capstone” exercise focussed on a particular industry and group of countries. Originally we had chosen Thailand and Vietnam because Thailand’s hospitality sector is much more developed while Vietnam’s is still maturing, but the political unrest in Thailand made us revise the schedule to focus only on Vietnam but much more deeply.
After a full day of lectures, we decided to take a break and visit Ha Long Bay which is a world heritage location where the EMBAs got a chance to see the thousands of islands and scenic beauty of this region before a final program with the Sheraton management to discuss the hotel and hospitality industry in Hanoi and how it differed from the remainder of the country.
In twelve days, we saw and heard a lot. It was obvious to all of us that Vietnam still has much room for growth in the hotel and hospitality field although certain areas are clearly overbuilt. Staff development is still a challenge although it was also clear to us that the best hotels are really putting a lot of work into this and that service levels are much improved. Each one of these EMBA trips is a great learning experience and also a great opportunity to make new friends, learn more about a particular country and its people and also to sometimes renew old acquaintances which I certainly did on this trip. Loyola Marymount University (LMU) runs in our view one of the best programs in terms of its trips and it was an honor and a pleasure to help support them again in 2014 LMU.
The next morning we left early for Danang in Central Vietnam. On arrival, we were met by our local guide and transferred to the Hoi An Palm Garden Beach Resort and Hotel which would be our “home” for the next three nights. We had a quick tour of Hoi An which all of us came to love before a chance to meet with students of Duy Tan University and hear from government and University speakers on the development of the Hotel industry in Central Vietnam. Duy Tân University (DTU) (Trường Đại học Duy Tân) is a private university and is the first and largest University in Da Nang, Vietnam.
Later that day we visited the Hyatt Regency Danang Resort & Spa where we toured the beachside property and met with the hotels management team to discuss the five star hotel and its development.
After a fun and enjoyable break in Hoi An, we next moved to Hanoi where we again were met by our new guide for the North and taken on a tour of Hanoi. Hanoi has managed to keep much of the older architecture and offers a real change of scene from must of the rest of Asia. Our hotel for this stop was the Sheraton which is right on West Lake and is consistently one of the top, if not thee top, hotel in Hanoi. Highlights of our time in Hanoi were presentation by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sports. Here we had a really comprehensive presentation and question and answer exchange with Mr. Nguyen Quy Phuong, Director General of Vietnam Travel Industry Management Department Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Mr. Phuong is in charge of Vietnam’s travel and hotel sector and was very open and informative in his exchanges with us.
We then visited Ecopark, a major real estate development in Hanoi, and had a working program with Hanoi University on the Tourism industry led by Thu Hoang, Ph.D., Dean, Faculty of Management and Tourism Hanoi University and from three of the professors in the tourism and travel.