Mui Ne was once regarded as the “resort capital of Vietnam.” But the town has had fluctuating fortunes while facing increased pressure from other Vietnamese beach destinations. Today, however, Mui Ne is home to a booming tourist industry drawing visitors to its kitesurfing conditions, which are praised as some of the best in Southeast Asia. Added to that, the resort town’s prized attractions include its red and white sand dunes and hot-air balloon rides. With such distinct entertainment options in the area, the once humble coastal fishing town is well on its way to building a reputation as a tourism powerhouse in Vietnam.

We made the four-hour trip by road from Saigon to Mui Ne to meet with the general manager of Anantara Mui Ne Resort, Farah Jaber. We wanted to get his perspective on what’s in store for this formerly sleepy town, what its growing pains and tourism opportunities are, and how it’s holding up to pressure from rival domestic destinations like Phu Quoc and Danang.

How do you see the future development of Mui Ne? What could help boost its visibility amongst other regional beach destinations?

I wouldn’t mind seeing more internationally-recognized hotel brands develop in the area. Rather than provide competition to Anantara Mui Ne, I think they would help us to cement Mui Ne as a prime tourist destination in Vietnam.

More robust accessibility and infrastructure from Saigon to Mui Ne would also help boost the destination’s tourism industry. Better transit, an airport, and new and improved roads would all help put Mui Ne on the travel consumer market map. Right now, Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat is the closest airport. Rather than driving, the only other options to get here are by bus or train, taking at least four hours.

When the expressway between Vung Tau and Saigon opened in late 2014, it boosted local tourism cutting the travel time between the two cities in half. I see big potential for something similar in Mui Ne if the infrastructure connecting us to Ho Chi Minh City were to improve.

Farah - Anantara Mui Ne
Farah Jabar: “Vietnam is unique in so many ways compared to its more famous neighbors.”

Why are travelers choosing Vietnam over other Asian countries?

Vietnam is unique in so many ways compared to its more famous neighbors. Its people, cuisine, history, and unforgettable cultural heritage will touch the heart of any discerning traveler. But its tourism industry is young. Much of its development is recent as the country’s economy continues to post stellar growth figures fueled by a rapidly developing export industry.

And with more business and investment coming to the country, tourism follows. As a hotel group, that’s why we’ve chosen to invest more into Vietnam. And that’s not just in Mui Ne, but in locations across the country. In fact, tourism numbers are up as much as 40% in larger, well-connected cities such as Hai Phong, Hanoi, and Saigon according to the South China Morning Post.

Farah - Anantara Mui Ne
One of the Anantara Mui Ne’s pool villas. “We find that most of our guests are people looking for a tranquil escape from their busy lives in Saigon,” says Farah Jabar.

What is Anantara Mui Ne’s target demographic? Where do you see growth coming from?

Our core demographic is 25-to-45-year-old white collar professionals. We find that this group is looking for experiences over simply taking the chance to stay at a classic hotel. But anyone can come to Anantara Mui Ne. We find that most of our guests are people looking for a tranquil escape from their busy lives in Saigon. On weekends especially, we see most groups of guests are comprised of families from Saigon. We’re also seeing encouraging growth from international markets, particularly guests from across Asia.

Farah - Anantara Mui Ne
“I grew up in Paris, a city that is home to some of my favorite hotels in the world.”

What are your top picks on where to go, what to see, and where to eat in Mui Ne?

I would start off with a yoga session on the beach at sunrise to capture the morning energy. I’d wait for the right waves and perfect my kitesurfing skills. After that, I would enjoy lunch at our beach-front restaurant. I would also take the opportunity to relax in one of Anantara Mui Ne’s private villa pools before heading to the white sand dunes. Climbing aboard a hot air balloon to see the beauty of Mui Ne from a bird’s eye view is also highly recommended.

Mui Ne Sand Dune
Credits: http://www.alecring.ca

What are some of your favorite hotels in the world? How about in Vietnam? Where should we stay next?

I grew up in Paris, a city that is home to some of my favorite hotels in the world. Many of my best childhood memories are in the George V Hotel, which is now the Four Seasons Hotel George V. My favorite hotel in Vietnam is yet to open—the upcoming Anantara Quy Nhon Villas. So, for the time being I’ll choose the place right next door: the AVANI Quy Nhon.

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