We hear it over and over again. Today's luxury travelers want more than pampering. They want off-the-beaten-path adventures with impeccable service.
That's why Vietnam is shaping up as one of the hottest destinations this year.
With a base of iconic properties like the Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi, a fast-growing list of modern luxury and spa destinations, recently opened golf courses and the launch of luxury train service to ease the pain of traveling its antiquated and congested roads, Asia travel experts say Vietnam is now one of the top destinations in Southeast Asia, and luxury is the fastest-growing segment.
Pham Ha, founder and CEO of Luxury Travel Ltd., one of the country's original luxury tour operators, says he expects growth of 30% last year. Tourism overall to the country was up 14% last year, to 6.8 million international arrivals, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.
And while Vietnam has always been a popular destination for history buffs and adventure travelers, the huge recent growth is due to the improved tourism infrastructure. Additionally, he says, Vietnam is still a relative travel bargain, "even for those who don't normally concern themselves with cost."
An average lavish tour, he says, will run from $2,500 to $3,500 per person for a seven-day tour, although many are priced at more than $1,000 per day, per visitor.
So what are some of Ha's top picks for staying and doing in Vietnam? He says his personal favorite is Six Senses Ninh Van Bay Nha Trang.
"But I find that the top five that seem to leave clients in awe are the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel, La Residence Hue Hotel and Spa, the Nam Hai in Hoi An, the Park Hyatt Saigon Hotel and Six Senses Con Dao," he said.
The next upcoming destination in Vietnam is the archipelago of Con Dao, he says, with its intimate villas resort and undeveloped beaches.
"Six Senses Con Dao has everything you might want, like a much larger resort, but it is limited to a smaller clientele, with fewer rooms and suites, guaranteeing exclusivity," he said.
"The 50 private-pool villas offer space and privacy along with an uncompromising standard of luxury. Villas are either Ocean View or Ocean Front (single-level and duplex) offering a choice of one, three and four bedrooms. There is a great staff-to-guest ratio, which means that there is always someone around to take care of your needs, whether it is an extra towel at the pool or a late-night snack. And the staff are locals and make an effort to make you feel like one, too, while of course being mindful of providing elite and personalized service."
Ha, whose company specializes in Indochina, says Vietnam and Cambodia are the top destinations in Southeast Asia.
"Today's luxury travelers want to be entertained and stimulated, rather than simply pampered, and Vietnam offers a magical mix of tropical beaches, post-colonial charm, a string of World Heritage Sites, stunning inland scenery, world-renowned cuisine and a home-grown flair for hospitality. Vietnam has all to offer," he said.