MICE tourism needs a business-friendly environment, professional services, world-class facilities and infrastructure, creative venues, and exciting cultures and cuisines. Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam has all the right ingredients to compete with existing MICE destinations in Southeast Asia, such as Singapore and Bangkok.
An Internationally Connected Hub
To facilitate MICE tourism, guests need to be able to access the destination with ease. Ho Chi Minh City has the country’s busiest international airport, with an average of 457 flights every week to 76 destinations by 47 different airlines. Because the airport is located just 7 kilometers away from the city center, guests can commute easily and conveniently to their hotels. On top of this, the Vietnamese government exempts visa requirements for 24 nationalities, including all member states of ASEAN and most European passport holders. For other nationalities, the government has recently allowed e-visas to simplify the previously complex procedure.
Improving Infrastructure and Accommodation
The country is focusing on improving infrastructure, including roads, transportation systems, conference venues, and international hotels. This improvement has helped Vietnam host many important international events, such as the ASEAN Tourism Forum – ATF 2009, ASEAN Summit 2010, and APEC 2017.
Understanding the importance of infrastructure, Ho Chi Minh City attempts to return sidewalks to the pedestrians, make parks and public areas safer, and improve overall road conditions. In particular, the road to the city’s biggest convention center, Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center (SECC) in District 7, has been upgraded to reduce traffic jams. Next to it are more hotels, restaurants, and commercial centers. There are about 1,500 hotels in the city, 65 of which are classified as 3 to 5 stars. Notably, 13 international 5-star hotels exist in the city, with leading addresses including Le Méridien Saigon, Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers, Renaissance Riverside Saigon, Park Hyatt, and others. These hotels are well-equipped with meeting and convention facilities of various sizes and for various needs.
As recently as 2017, the Vietnamese Government introduced a VND30 trillion (US$1.32 billion) program to develop tourism and transport infrastructure at major tourist destinations mentioned in the “Strategy on Vietnam’s Tourism Development Until 2020, Vision to 2030.” As a result, Vietnam welcomed 16.3 million international travelers, a 15.4% increase year over year. Of all the tourists who travel to Ho Chi Minh City, 17% are business travelers, which is 15% more than any other country in the region.
Besides government support, international hotels offer unique incentives of their own to attract MICE business. Le Méridien Saigon, a 5-star hotel within the Marriott International group, is allowing customers to earn triple points when booking their event from now until the end of 2020, with favorable room rates. The hotel also dishes up creative meeting breaks that fuse local Vietnamese flavors with inventive touches. These initiatives aim to draw MICE travelers away from other competitive destinations.
Exotic Culture Charm
MICE tourism is not complete without discovering the history and culture of its destination. Ho Chi Minh City has an impressive list of tourist attractions and superb hospitality services to welcome MICE travelers. In a place where past and present meet, opportunities are limitless. From historic locations such as Ben Thanh Market, Reunification Palace (or Independence Palace), China Town, War Remnants Museum, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, and Saigon Post Office to exciting entertainment parks, water parks, and shopping malls, Ho Chi Minh City earns its badge as the most dynamic metropolitan region in Vietnam, where the nightlife is diverse.
While pho is Vietnam's most famous food, it's not the only thing guests can enjoy in Ho Chi Minh City. Heavily influenced by the Mekong delta, the city offers a diverse choice of local food, such as Quang noodle, Vietnamese broken rice, bun mam (a kind of dish that includes fermented fish served with savory vermicelli soup), and Southern pancakes. The city also has a considerable number of fine foreign restaurants, which are sure to delight the palate of every MICE traveler. The coffee culture in Ho Chi Minh City is famous as well, with many hip and exciting coffee shops ranging from rustic designs to modern settings. Enthusiasts can explore a taste of Vietnamese coffee at Latitude 10 Lounge and Bar, Shin Coffee, Cong Ca Phe, or the like.
With continuous improvement in infrastructure, services, and government support, the future is rosy for MICE tourism in Ho Chi Minh City, putting it on the radar of corporate buyers and meeting planners for years to come.