In our upcoming series ‘Vietnam’s Backroads‘ we will be featuring destinations in Vietnam that outdoor adventurers can check out. We’re teaming up with AsiaMotions, Vietnam outdoor experts that specialize in multi-day group excursions – school trips, camps, and team-building – including camping, outdoor activities, and community service. Our interview with Baptiste and Paul covers the ins-and-outs of what AsiaMotions does.
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What did you work on before starting AsiaMotions?
Paul: I’ve been in Vietnam for more than 10 years. I’ve worked on a number of business and jobs before I decided, “okay, let’s do something I really want to do”.
Baptiste: I grew up in Singapore and Malaysia. First, I worked in China and in the Alps (France) as a mountain guide/leader. Then, I became operation manager to open jungle trails in Vietnam.
How did you two meet?
Baptiste: We met 6 years ago working at Vietadventure. The company used to host 6 adventure races every year, among them the Madagui trophy (triathlon in the jungle) and the Le Fruit Mui Ne triathlon were big highlights. The company was also already running school trips. We enjoyed working together and have been friends since.
What sort of groups does your team lead?
Paul: We most often lead groups of students of around 30 to 150 from international schools of Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi. We also organize corporate trips for teambuilding retreats. Teambuilding is confirmed as an emerging trend among local and international companies all over Viet Nam.
Can you tell us about a typical trip?
Paul: A typical trip offers a combination of an outstanding venue (preferably a national park or an Eco-lodge), discovery of outdoor sports -seldom offered in an urban setting- and getting a better connection with nature. We lead activities such as water rafting, mountain biking, rock-climbing, and trekking. We promote camping experience, physical activity, and social commitment.
Baptiste: We always promote the resources found locally and work closely with the locals and ethnic groups. We do our utmost to incorporate community services elements in our programs such as learning a traditional craft, building recycled walls and playgrounds in a local school or spending an afternoon exchanging and playing with kids from a local orphanage.
What are some goals for these trips?
Baptiste: Most of the students we take on trips are city kids; they grew up in Saigon and have never been camping outside or in the jungle. We want everyone on the trip to learn to explore and choose a healthy lifestyle. And we also promote and raise environmental awareness by bringing them back to nature. We think it’s important to be connected to the wilderness and to be aware of what is happening to nature nowadays.
Paul: Some of these students will presumably be among the leaders of tomorrow in Viet Nam. It would already be an achievement if our work can contribute raising awareness among these children about major contemporary issues such as environmental impact and conservation. A great trip is a platform for opening eyes and perspectives.
How does your team plan these trips?
Baptiste: We work closely with our team of counselors to have balanced and fun programs for each grade level. We then meet with the teachers early in the school year and work together on the curriculum for the trip that supplements what they learn in school. Some of the parents are not used to outdoor activities that are fairly new in Viet Nam. Thus reassuring the parents is also part of our job.
Paul: It’s an ongoing project; we like to challenge our vision and stay open to feedback to refine our trips and constantly improve the way we run them. Gathering and updating information about our destination of choice is a must in a rapidly changing and developing environment.
What is the future for the company?
Baptiste: The team is growing every year. We aim at having experienced and regularly trained staff to have the best trips. We’re also developing teambuilding trips as a different branch of our company and in a different direction, we’re working on holiday camps. We want our company to be one where people feel good and can grow.
What have been some difficulties doing business in Vietnam?
Paul: There seems to be a clear shift in interest among some Vietnamese travelers; domestic traveling is still booming and traveling habits are changing at a rapid pace. We are seeing more and more Vietnamese travelers going for outdoor adventure and looking for thrilling experiences rather than a more classic family outing and gathering. Viet Nam is definitely establishing its status as a “hot destination” in Southeast Asia. However, the infrastructures for camping are rare or unknown. Thus the difficulties we faced by being among the first ones to explore outdoor destinations in Viet Nam have become our strength. We are now Viet Nam’s experts in the outdoors. We’ve mastered many outdoor itineraries and can advise travelers seeking outdoor adventure.
Baptiste: Vietnam is a developing country and a fast-growing economy, a strong place to start a company in. We chose a field of work that had not existed much before. At the same time, there are difficulties in being in Viet Nam; dealing with local suppliers that do not always understand our demands is frequent. Back home, the outdoors industry and the tourism industry are already well-established. There are certifications and safety agreements that are well known by all the actors. In Viet Nam, it’s not always the case and our role is to ensure the schools that our suppliers and ourselves are meeting these international safety standards.
How does your team choose a location for hosting trips?
Paul: We have a set of criteria. We avoid hotels and resorts in major tourist points, and try to find places where people can experience new things.
Baptiste: We will look for charming environments and activities that students would not normally have been exposed to with their families. Interesting food and facilities that can accommodate a large group.
Do you think your team will work more with Vietnamese schools?
Paul: We currently work essentially with international schools in Vietnam and their bilingual counterparts. The bilingual school sector is growing fast and steadily and is attracting more and more Vietnamese parents every year. We are working on creating different trips, so we can meet their requirements in terms of curriculum, budget, and vision. Working with entirely 100% Vietnamese schools is another further step ahead but we feel the gap is closing up.
What are the top three places to visit in Vietnam?
Baptiste: In North Vietnam: Mai Chau, Hoa Binh Lake, Phu Ninh Lake
Paul: Hoi An, Con Dao Island, and Nam Cat Tien National park
Who should we speak with next?
Francois Bouvery and Tram Anh Nguyen from Ta Lai Longhouse. A guesthouse and travel activity business located on the edge of Cat Tien National Park.