Q&A with Tony Chisholm, former GM and Area Manager of Pullman Saigon Centre

Travel Daily spoke to  the dynamic GM, Tony Chisholm to get the low down on brand recognition, the hospitality market in Ho Chi Minh city and the future of Pullman Saigon Centre

Travel Daily) How is the hotel sector in Ho Chi Minh City currently performing, and is Pullman Saigon Centre experiencing similar trends?

The entire country has started this year off very positively with great occupancy levels despite there being more hotels and bedrooms available in the market year on year. I think most hotels are feeling optimistic about the business climate for 2017. With an increase in MICE and corporate business to date we have seen a number of dates being highly constrained in this first quarter.

Where do the majority of your guests come from, any are you seeing any shifts in your source markets?

As our occupancy continues to grow the market sources only really have variance in the MICE sector as this is business that usually occurs either annually or biannually but It looks like that there is more business coming to the city from Singapore then before. Our hotels all focus on their respective go to markets and their strategic leisure partnerships that for the most part of more European centric than from the Americas. For the Pullman Saigon we have worked hard to not be reliant on only one or two markets so to date we are delighted that this is working in our favour and most of our segments are more evenly spread across a number of countries.

AccorHotels has a strong leadership position in Vietnam; does this give you an advantage, in terms of operations, sales etc?

 It certainly does help us in terms of the brand recognition and cut through as we now represent more of the brand Accor offers to customers ranging from our Luxury brands of Sofitel, upper Upscale Lifestyle of Pullman though to our most recent opening in South Vietnam on December 24th 2017 the Ibis Airport Saigon. Our Novotel brand here in Saigon continues to shine and the arrival of our boutique Luxury property M Gallery Hotel des Arts gives us the perfect range of options for the business and or leisure customer arriving in Saigon.

Since it opened in 2014, has the hotel developed many regular return guests? What do you think is drawing them back to the Pullman?

I always tell our “Connectors” which is what we call our hotel staff that we while we have one of the newest and coolest Lifestyle hotels in Vietnam with dynamic in-vogue food and beverage outlets it’s really the people in the hotel that link the experience for our guests.

Without the Connectors passionately welcoming and looking after our guests throughout their stay. especially our Le Club guests the hotel would not work nearly as well. I am receiving some lovely feedback on a daily basis about the Connectors we have in the hotel and this rewarding to read because my team and I are very particular about selecting the right talent to work at Pullman Saigon Centre.

What opportunities and challenges lie ahead for hoteliers in HCMC?

 I think that we have to personalise the journey and the experience and go as deep as we can to truly articulate a stay that resonates with the guest and challenges them at the same time. More thought has to be given as to how we different our guest experiences from our competition and working tirelessly on new ideas for concepts and service.

We need to talk with our guests of course but my new mantra is to listen more then we talk so that we can download that is important to each traveller that enters our hotel. I also believe that a distinct standalone restaurant approach is required in such a dynamic food and beverage market with such unique concepts in the city. If hoteliers are not challenging their food & beverage teams and demanding more for our guests as in industry we could lose ground. There is no reason why hotels can’t be as innovative as standalone restaurant operations.

What further developments can we expect at Pullman Saigon Centre in 2017 and beyond?

We are very excited to be launching a new Wine Bar and Grill located on the 3oth floor of the hotel. The current concept has been in market for over three years now and we wanted to freshen it up and give it a big twist to complete the full lifestyle experience that Pullman Saigon Centre has to offer. In 2016 we created a cool Pop Up Burger Bar in the hotel lobby and so continuing our commitment to customers to deliver new food and beverage ideas we will launch in July, August something very unique to the city for the avid food and beverage lover.

We have selected a paddock to plate grass feed meat supplier from Australia matched with a new Australian Chef who loves to cook with Auzzie meat but the Grill also boasts grilled Seafood. We also wanted to make wine more accessible and so we will launch a new wine concept new to hotels in Vietnam – the last development for us to continue our resolute dedication to the guest. We will continue to challenge ourselves to be the best we can to showcase Vietnam and Saigon to every single customer that walks in the door.

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