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From tour guide to CEO
In her best English, Ms Hoang Anh Nguyen Ngoc still stumbles over her words in her great enthusiasm to explain more about the small businesses she has set up since 2012. Hoang Anh is 32 years old and began her career as a tour guide. Her passions are tourism and organic farming. She works, studies and networks from early morning until late at night, seven days a week. But at the same time, this female entrepreneur is a dedicated mother to her four-year-old daughter.
Tineke Janssen: “This PUM advisory mission – my first in Vietnam – took me to Da Lat, some 240 kilometres north of Ho Chi Minh City. Situated in a hilly, forested region, at an altitude of 1,500 metres, Da Lat is a centre of flower and vegetable cultivation. The city is also Vietnam’s number one honeymoon destination and attracts lots of Asian visitors.
Entrepreneurial busy bee
The request that the Hana Group submitted to PUM was formulated as follows: ‘We want to be trained in tourism (restaurant, hotel and lodging, and eco-tourism site), and in marketing. How to put together tailor-made tours, excursions to our organic garden.’ The Hana Group turned out to comprise eight small brands, four of which are still under development. Following Hoang Anh’s suggestion, we set out to visit the entire group on the very first day. It initially made me dizzy to even consider the extent of the commercial juggling act this lady is capable of performing! She runs an organic restaurant and two small guesthouses, while also managing a five-hectare organic vegetable farm situated at the edge of the jungle. Furthermore, ten chalets and a restaurant are scheduled to be opened on the site in 2019. The expansion plans for 2019 also comprise an online travel platform for inbound tourism in Da Lat. In addition to an online shop for the farm’s organic produce, a coffee shop is currently under construction, while there are also plans to open a shop selling organic vegetables, souvenirs and products supplied by the region’s cultural minorities. And last, but not least, there is a launderette. I personally concentrated mainly on the group’s operations in the field of tourism.
‘It is highly inspiring to work with these young Vietnamese people’
My first working day drew to a close in her bright, brand new office. In addition to Ms Hoang Anh herself, Ms Bao Trang (22 years old) and Mr Huy (25 years old) served as my ‘sparring partners’. It is very inspiring to work with these young Vietnamese people as they simply ooze energy, zeal and enthusiasm. The Hana Group’s vision is: ‘To make a value chain in eco-tourism and eco-agriculture. We will respect the local culture, the nature and the environment in all its aspects.’ And this would also serve as one of the major objectives of my mission: Offering advice on how best to align the companies’ activities (the value chain), thus enabling them to both strengthen and benefit from one another.
Gap in the market
As the organic restaurant had proved to be a novelty in Da Lat, we first focused on its unique selling point: from garden to table. A number of my recommendations were actually implemented immediately. The exterior wall of the restaurant is now emblazoned with the words ‘The first organic restaurant in Da Lat’, while the company has both modified its business cards and begun to distribute vouchers designed to tempt people such as receptionists at nearby hotels to promote the restaurant among their foreign guests (for a modest commission).
‘Structure and focus featured as the common thread of our discussions’
Our thoughts regarding the excursions to the vegetable farm, in combination with the restaurant visits, and also the activities in Hana Land have all been put down on paper. We also prepared a presentation about the travel platform which CEO Ms. Hoang Anh has since successfully delivered to the government. We then brainstormed about the prospective target groups for the chalets in the jungle and the official opening. Structure and focus featured as the common thread of our discussions.
Frog with porridge
On my final working day, much to my surprise, a camera crew from the provincial TV station visited the restaurant. They expressed particular interest in its organic specialities: the hotpot and frog with porridge... I therefore played along as a European customer, happy to recommend the quality of the first organic restaurant in Da Lat.”
Tineke Janssen: “After studying at the NWIT in Breda (the current NHTV) and studying law, I ended up in tourism after a few wanderings. As a product manager for distant destinations at Wereldcontact Reizen and Kuoni (both companies no longer exist under that name), I spent 18 years with people from all kinds of countries and cultures. After my retirement, I missed those contacts the most. Thanks to a tip from a good friend, I quickly ended up at PUM. The combination of practical advice and concentration in a short period of time on one entrepreneur or region in an emerging economy appealed to me. Since the end of 2012, I have carried out eight advice missions for PUM in the field of tour operation and marketing in Peru, Colombia, Kenya, Rwanda, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, the Philippines and in November 2018 in Vietnam.”
Are you, or do you know someone with several years of experience in the hotel world (marketing, sales, Rooms Division, Banqueting and Food & Beverages), who speaks and writes at least English, but preferably also speaks French or Spanish? Can you set up a destination marketing plan or help tour operators and tour agencies to make strategic plans? We would like to hear it. Find out more by clicking here.