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Flying high Nam Hai calls for more flights

The property’s managers of The Nam Hai resort in Vietnam have launched a campaign to bring international carriers to the country. The push bore its first fruit in March, when Korean-based operator Asiana Airlines announced it will begin service between Seoul and Danang in July.

Then, last week, the resort convened a meeting with high-level officials of Vietnam Airlines, Pacific Airlines, Silkair and Cathay Pacific. The Nam Hai was used as the platform for those in attendance—including representatives of Vietnam’s most notable tour operating companies, other regional hotels and The Nam Hai’s sister property, the soon-to-open Montgomerie Links Vietnam golf club—to discuss the economic and geographical potential of the Central Coast area.

“The old adage rings as true in Vietnam as elsewhere: If you build it, they will come,” said Wayne Duberly, general manager of The Nam Hai, which experienced a record month in March for guests. “And they want to come, but they’re having trouble getting here. Although the demand is here, the beach is here, and the cultural assets are here, the airlines are not. Not yet.”

The gathering of airline industry spokespeople came on the heels of another significant event at The Nam Hai—an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit involving the financial leaders of all 10 members (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam).

The ASEAN meeting attracted 90 influential ministers and concluded with a gala dinner, which was turned into a showcase of Vietnamese haute cuisine by The Nam Hai’s executive chef, Kath Townsend. The worldly Australian put on a similar exhibition the week before, when 70 classic car enthusiasts participating in the exclusive Tiger Rally across Southeast Asia rolled through for two nights.

“The Tiger Rally, the ASEAN finance ministers, the publicity this region is getting in the international media—all of these factors underscore the need to drastically boost the number of routes,” said Duberly. “There’s even more activity on the horizon, too.”

Over the next year, some of the most prestigious hotel groups in the world, including Raffles, Banyan Tree, Kor and Hyatt, will be developing resorts in the region. Additionally, golf—a sport that is becoming increasingly popular in Asia, especially in Korea, where four million people are said to play the game—is set to become part of the landscape in a big way. Legends Greg Norman and Colin Montgomerie are both building courses near China Beach, while Korean firm Daewon is investing in a layout in the city.

“Japan is the second largest golf market in the world, and Korea is fourth,” said Jon Tomlinson, general manager of The Montgomerie Links, which is slated to have nine holes playable by summer. “If you open up Danang, you open up a world of new possibilities for players in those countries. You also open up Central Vietnam to their spending habits. And since golf is a lifestyle too, that cannot be underestimated.”

“Hong Kong could be a key link in all of this,” said Christian DeBoer, director of sales and marketing for The Nam Hai. “It’s a major international hub only an hour away, but at the moment there are no direct flights from there. If we saw bi-weekly service, I think we’d also see Danang and Hoi An become a popular alternative to places like Bali and Phuket, and create jobs and prosperity for the Central Coast, to boot.”