On the special occassion of Vienamese traditional Tet, Matthias Wiesmann shared with TheLEADER about his fifth Tet holiday experience in Vietnam.
Coming from Switzerland, he did not think that he would be attracted to stay in this coastal city for that long. Danang has been changed tremendously since his first step on this city with hotels mushrooming and competing fiercely in retaining talented people as well as attracting and retaining visitors.
Is there any special reason keeping you in Danang for that so long?
When I was almost finished with my working contract in Hue, Furama Resort called me to ask whether I was interested to join them which I gladly accepted and do not regret it at all having made that decision.
Danang is a great city, having probably the best infrastructure of a town in Vietnam, is easily connected to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and many regional airports in Asia making it easy to connect. Also here, the people are most welcoming and happy making it pleasant to stay on. Danang, as well as the whole central coast, is also a vibrant region for development which is an important factor to continue to be part of this challenging development.
Danang and the whole central coast region is such as diverse region which is important for its development but people have to become more aware of the challenges of environment, how to sustainably grow and accept the changes which will be challenging for all.
Coming from the West, have you faced any cultural shocks when you first came to Vietnam?
I arrived in Vietnam in November 2004 by recommendation of a good friend of mine, I originally had some mixed feelings but now I am totally convinced of having made a great decision. Having spent a long time in Asia before, the cultural shock was not so big. The biggest change was maybe the many bicycles in the streets! However, people are extremely nice and would also say more diligent, focused and capable than in other sea countries.
What are the biggest challenges you have met since you took over the management of Furama Resort Danang and what have you done to tackle the challenges?
My biggest challenges at the beginning were to change people’s attitude since Furama has been the one and only five-star international resort in the region for a long time.
However, this has changed tremendously with the growth in the hospitality industry especially but also by the tremendous increase in visitors arrival. This situation has forced us to concentrate on our main strategy, the development and retaining of our staff.
Furama Resort has probably the highest percentage of retaining employees due to the fact that we take well care of them.
Furthermore, we are continuously focusing our efforts to keep our facilities and services updated and renewed which is necessary for all the competitor resort coming up around the whole region.
As more and more hotels are opening in Danang and attracting your staff with higher salaries, what have you done to retain your staff?
A comprehensive training and development program is essential to assure a staff retention. You have to take care of your staff in order for them to feel that their career is planned properly and they can move forward in their very own interests as well.
Our salaries are updated every year to assure we stay competitive and also makes it worthwhile for our staff to work for us. We also organize social events throughout the year for the enjoyment of our staff on the new year, Tet, yearly staff outings.
A thought after recognition program, rewards, and employee engagement program are also being adopted and upgraded every year to assure the proper development of our human resources services.
Furama Resort has opened for 20 years and as a result, it is quite an older property compared to the newly opened ones. What have you done to maintain the attractiveness of Furama Resort?
Furama Resort has and is continuously upgrading its facilities and services as well as adding new and exciting products to the hospitality industry of Danang city.
Here at the Furama we have created two executive suites to host the leaders of the APEC Summit last November, added the Ariyana convention centre as the venue for 80 per cent or so of all the meetings during the summit, upgraded our services, materials, and operating equipment throughout to be ready for these high dignitaries.
We will continue to do so and are also planning a total renovation of the resort once our new product, the Ariyana beach resort, and suites come on line.
Do you fear that new hotels and condotels opening up in the next few years will pose threats to Furama Resort Danang?
They will probably have an influence not only to Furama resort but all the resorts within the region! You can imagine when you double the capacity of hospitality rooms within a couple of years, everyone will be looking for qualified staff to make an impact on their first year of operation.
Why has Furama Resort promoted itself as a culinary resort in recent years? What can guests expect from a culinary resort?
The culinary offer in a resort is most important since our guests are usually staying more than 2 – 3 nights. At the resort, we offer not less than three distinct fine dining venues which take a great deal of work to make sure our guests get only the most innovative and highest quality of food on their plates. It is also the opportunity to distinguish ourselves from other resorts.
We sent our chefs to many countries in order to increase their culinary knowledge and introduce a great balance in our menus for our international guests coming from all corners of the globe. Our chefs have been in top restaurants and hotels/resort in Japan, Hong Kong, Bangkok, India, Italy and others for that purpose. Furthermore, we organize top of the range food promotion and train our chefs as well.
Foreign tourists used to dominate Furama Resort but recently the proportion of Vietnamese guests is fast growing. Are there any differences in catering these two groups and what have you done to satisfy both?
For us, it is important to have the right catering for locals as well as the foreign visitors. The locals are the core guests which provide an initial image to the resort; therefore, if you can impress the local community they will also recommend you to all the visitors.
We do offer three distinct restaurants where we offer the best of local, regional and international cuisines. With our chefs who have been exposed to all these cuisines, we can assure top quality dishes in all our restaurants.
Our café Indochine will be the venue for local A-la-carte cuisines, regional as well as international favorites. In the evening our seafood buffet dinner has become a famous venue for seafood lovers from around the world since we offer over 20 different fish and seafood specials which are cooked to each guest’s very own taste.
What you the biggest problems hotels and tourism sector in Danang are facing and what should be done to resolve the problems?
The Danang tourism department has a great challenge in front of them which also affects all the hotels. The strong growth in all areas needs to be addressed. Those included infrastructures (roads, airport, entertainment, tourist attractions), human resources development, education, hygiene, environment are all factors which will affect the quality of the destination as a whole.
It is important for all sectors to get together and discuss, plan, develop, maintain, correct these issues on a continuous basis in order to keep the region attractive and worth living. Only together, we can all solve the challenges ahead of us.
Is it easier or more difficult to manage a beach resort like Furama than city hotels that you had run previously?
Neither is more difficult or easier. The most important is to assure the well-being of our guests and the consistency of our services. In resorts, guests normally stay longer hence you have more contact with them giving you more opportunities to assure their wellbeing.
In regards t employees, it is capital to try and reach a most consistent service quality which is important in all departments, both, in the back and front of the house as in the end, the front of the house can only work as well as they are backed up by the back of house services.
How have you spent your Tet holidays? What do you like about Tet?
Every year I am staying here at the resort during Tet to assure a smooth service to our Tet guests coming from around Asia to celebrate. So, my location is right here in Danang.
Since this is a local affair, I tend to let the locals celebrate and enjoy themselves as, for many, this is their only time they can spend with their whole family a bit like our Christmas/New year period in Europe.
I am ok with that since traveling during these days is sometimes a nightmare as all airports, roads, trains, buses are overcrowded hence making it easier to stay where I am.