AccorHotels promotes Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi, but announces new properties in North Vietnam
27 years with the AccorHotels group, William J. Haandrikman has worked in ten countries in three continents, from sales and marketing to GM positions at Sofitels in The Hague, Paris, Vienna, Shanghai and Bangkok, before taking over as area general manager – North Vietnam – at the helm of the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi. He speaks about its exceptional history.
The property was built in 1901 by two Frenchmen who had seen the Raffles in Singapore, and said “Whatever the English can do, we can do better in Hanoi – the Paris of the East”. Thus, the Metropole came to be (indeed there is humor in this). During the conflict periods, antiwar activists like Joan Baez and prominent journalists lyke Sy Hersh stayed at the Metropole. In 1988, Accor took over the management contract. First it was a Pullman, and then within 4 years it was brought into the Sofitel chain. In 2007, when the decision was made to create the Legend brand, it became the first Sofitel Legend in the world.
MANY OF THE WORLD’S LEADERS HAVE STAYED AT THE METROPOLE
What other notable guests have stayed at the property?
We have a list of several hundred, starting with Charlie Chaplin, who honeymooned at the hotel in the 1930’s. Many of the world’s leaders have stayed at the Metropole. In the past 20 months, Prince William stayed, as did the Queen of Holland, coincidentally on the day I took over as GM.
What are the trends in visitors to Hanoi?
Overall it is positive for us. Some markets that had been a bit flat have been on the rise this year while just a few are slightly down. The US is up, France is up a little bit, Australia is down after a slight recovery due to currency fluctuation. The Americans still make up our biggest clientele with a lot of multi-generation travel by South and Central Americans as well as honeymooners. We are also seeing an increase in Vietnamese travellers from the south and centre wanting to visit the city, not forgetting Taiwan and more recently Korea as strong source markets.
What’s in the pipeline?
We are opening an MGallery Hotel in Sapa, in Northern Vietnam, a mountain retreat of the French in the past – where you can find the highest mountain in Indochina. The hotel is the brainchild of Bill Bensley. We are opening another Bensley-designed MGallery property in Yen Tu – a more “zen” retreat. There will be other MGallery properties opening, as well new Sofitels, a new Novotel in Hanoi. In Northern Vietnam, we hadn’t opened many new hotels in past years, but now we see the change and the Vietnamese owners see a stronger interest in investing with AccorHotels, as we can really drive business for them.
Photo: William J. Haandrikman, Area General Manager, AccorHotels North Vietnam