Guests often ask me why they never see any destination marketing for Vietnam. You know the kind of thing – the successful Amazing Thailand or Malaysia – Truly Asia campaigns, which, by combining memorable slogans with consistent messages and inviting images, have firmly established those countries’ ‘brands’ in the minds of travellers.
Currently, no such campaigns exist, or have ever existed, for Vietnam, the country relying on its tumultuous recent history and exotic allure to attract visitors. But with only around 5% of visitors coming back for repeat visits, clearly more needs to be done if Vietnam is to compete with its more aggressive (in marketing terms) neighbours.
The most recent slogan – The Hidden Charm – didn’t really cut it, implying as it did that Vietnam’s attractions aren’t obvious and have to be tracked down! But things seem to be improving. VNAT (Vietnam National Administration of Tourism) is currently working with Spanish tourism consultants to establish a marketing plan and a consistent brand message for the country, and if the work-in-progress report I saw recently is anything to go by, Vietnam should soon be making the kind of marketing effort and infrastructure investment needed to maintain and increase its tourism business.
The challenge for Vietnam’s marketing team is to establish a consistent brand message which encapsulates all the various attributes of such a large, diverse country – friendly people, nature, beaches, bustling cities, history, shopping, culture, food and so on. So how do you settle on a message that will resonate with travellers? Easy – listen to travellers themselves. Find out what visitors like about Vietnam, and just as importantly, find out what they DON’T like – tourism authorities here are very keen on organising Tourism Festivals and building ‘Tourist Villages’, little realising that most travellers want to see the real country and will go out of their way to avoid such artifice.
We applied the same process when putting together our current brand message. We looked at guest feedback (in-room questionnaires, Tripadvisor etc), had a couple of guest focus group sessions, and informally chatted to in-house guests and restaurant customers, and learned that the two main reasons people come back to the Duxton are its central location, and its friendly service. This enabled us to come up with the Heart of Saigon concept, which encompasses central location and caring service. A bit more consultation with visitors and resident expats, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to do the same for Vietnam!