Eight months after Alma’s closure, prompted by COVID-19’s resurgence in Vietnam, the 30-hectare resort will reopen on January 15 betting on a brighter future.
“In my time managing hotels for decades, when you have a hotel’s grand opening usually the first two years make for the gift that keeps on giving,” Alma’s managing director Herbert Laubichler-Pichler. “Yet since Alma’s debut in late December 2019, we nor anyone else the world over has experienced anything like the rollercoaster ride, with all of the tourism industry’s fits and starts as we dealt with three major lockdowns.”
Since the resort’s closure from May 16, Laubichler-Pichler said his team has kept busy developing a host of new capacities and services in readiness for the reopening, ranging from kickstarting a major solar power project and undergoing extensive training to developing a ‘back of house’ tour and enhancing Alma’s very own mobile app.
During the closure, Preferred Hotels member Alma appointed a sustainability officer to oversee three new staff sustainability committees focused on ‘green products’, ‘innovation and solutions’ and ‘partnerships’, through means such as garbage segregation, tree planting, paperless solutions, education and more.
A central plank of the independently owned and operated resort’s sustainability push is the implementation of a solar power project believed to be the most ambitious yet for a hotel in Vietnam. Involving the installation of 5634 solar panels totalling 12,500 sqm across the resort, it’s estimated the project will fuel up to almost half of the resort’s energy needs and reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 72,670 tonnes over a 25-year period.
To retain and motivate staff, Alma joined forces with Australian-founded company Typsy, a global digital hospitality training platform, to ‘up-skill’ hundreds of its hotel staff. Learners are encouraged to explore their interests, build skills to help with internal promotion and career progression, and earn industry-recognised qualifications via Typsy’s “Netflix-style” library of hospitality training videos by industry experts.
Alma’s managers also studied eCornell’s management accounting certification program’s six courses over four months, equipping them with tools to develop key performance indicators (KPIs) and reporting systems to boost the performance of managers and units across the entire organization.
Another example of how Alma has strived to think ‘outside the box’ during the closure is the one-hour “Back of House” tour available upon reopening to lead guests through the resort’s innerworkings. Tour stops include the pastry room, staff canteen, engineering workshop, loading dock, laundry and uniform rooms, electric buggy station, generator station, air conditioner centralized plant, water treatment plant, and CCTV and fire panel room.
Offering contactless communication with guests and staff in real-time, Alma has also recently updated its mobile app to usher in a payment gateway, allowing guests to settle bills in a cashless manner via the app, as well as accessing information about the weather in real-time due to the installation of a live weather cam on the resort’s stretch of Long Beach.
Other changes include doubling the size and capacity of the kitchen of beachfront restaurant Atlantis, that specialises in fresh and local seafood, and introducing a gourmet family barbeque experience and a roadside coffee shop to cater to the local traffic’s insatiable thirst for caffeine.
The team is also readying the resort for Tet on Feb. 1, to be marked with a six-day program filled with merriment such as traditional games and competitions, an outdoor cinema on the beach, kite flying competitions, lively singalongs and more. The vast lobby will be transformed into a traditional “Tet Village” with huts brimming with snacks and drinks.
“We’re cautiously optimistic about 2022 for a tourism industry that was brought to its knees by the pandemic,” Laubichler-Pichler said. “Things will gradually pick up but it’ll take time before tourism numbers come back to the levels of demand we experienced after Vietnam’s first lockdown, or even the second lockdown for that matter.”
With fully vaccinated staff that undergo regular COVID-19 testing, Alma has a raft of stringent health and safety measures in place to combat COVID-19.