An ode to Vietnam

Selling tips from travel advisors for travel advisors

From the stunning Halong Bay where 1,969 limestone islands jet out in contrast from the water to the charming lantern-lit streets of Hội An Ancient Town, Vietnam is a destination loaded with diverse cultural and scenic attractions. With a delicious food scene, picturesque idyllic beaches and a storied history, the country has something that’s bound to appeal to all types of travellers. 

Fresh off the Classic Vietnam: Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City itinerary on a Canadian agent FAM with G Adventures, Travel Courier caught up with travel advisors from across the country to share insights into how to better sell the destination. 

“Vietnam is special in many ways,” says Edwin Thompson of Go With Hippo Travel. “The first notable thing that stands out to me is that it is probably one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen. The wide range of landscapes and scenery is extraordinary. Its history is of course extremely unique. This country has fought an uphill battle for many years, and it was rare to see a Vietnamese person without a smile on their face. They have done an amazing job recreating their country, preserving their culture, and boasting vibrant, beautiful cities.”

With a range of travel styles for various types of travellers, Jenna English, Global Purpose Specialist for British Columbia & Northern Territories, for G Adventures points out that the tour operator has something that fits different types of clients — even families. Tours range from Roamies by Hostelworld and 18-to-Thirtysomethings trips to itineraries like the Classic Vietnam: Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City tour, which provides a great overview of the destination, to the more upscale National Geographic Journeys, which also has a family option.

“Roamies and 18-to-30somethings are more basic, it’s multi-share hostels, sometimes our 118-to-30something have camping, and it’s participation camping, that’s when they also help set up and take down the tents and help the CEO prepare the meals,” she shares. “Whereas on the opposite side of it, you have the National Geographic Journeys, which is our upgraded product. So you do stay at nicer hotels with more included amenities.”

Notably, she says agents represent roughly 50% of G Adventures bookings. 

“The people, the food, the culture, the history as well as the beautiful countryside and city views makes Vietnam special,” says Jacqueline Hider of Marlin Travel Mississauga, who sells a lot of G Adventures. “My highlights were the food overall and overnight on a boat portion in Halong Bay. The food absolutely blew me away throughout the journey. The view, while onboard the junk boat, was so picturesque that I had to pinch myself to make sure it was real!”

With the range of travel styles to choose from, she says it’s easy to find a trip that works for various clients and their needs. 

“There are different levels of service from basic to the National Geographic level to match different levels of client expectations and budgets,” she adds. 

Hider says she likes working with G Adventures as a tour operator for clients because she likes how they function as a social enterprise. 

“The G for Good experiences are always amazing. It’s wonderful to see how much good their projects actually do and how many lives they change,” she notes. “I don’t think that a lot of clients are aware as to how tourism sometimes affects the local community. I think it’s our job as agents to help make people aware as we suggest specific brands, that some do a far better job of this than others. Once people are aware, it usually helps them make their final decision.”

G Adventures itineraries in Vietnam visit Oodles of Noodles in Hoi An, a social enterprise that provides life-changing opportunities for poor, disadvantaged, orphaned and trafficked youths. Travellers visit the training restaurant to learn about noodle making and to enjoy a tasty local meal. 

“Oodles of Noodles was another highlight,” adds Thompson. “This is an absolutely amazing program as well as informative and culturally interesting. Making the noodles was so entertaining and the meal served after was wonderful.”

Meanwhile, Carol Leung an agent with The Travel Agent Next Door thinks numerous kinds of clients will be interested in Vietnam overall, including those who are “adventurous, want to learn more about history and culture of Vietnam and foodies” as well as those who have family ties to the destination.

Based on her first-hand experience, Leung will recommend visiting between September to February, and thinks many clients will spend a bit more for the National Geographic Journeys tours for a more upscale experience.

“G Adventures’ 18-30somethings travel style may not be for all 18 to 30s people in terms of luxury level,” adds Kaylee Mitchell of Flight Centre Orchard Park. “The G Adventures classic style tour accommodations is quite nice in my opinion but may not be for the luxury traveller but National Geographic Journeys would be up their alley for accommodations.”

Similarly, Rhonda Ennis of Inc. thinks clients who want to experience authentic real destinations are perfect clients for G trips in Vietnam. 

She suggests selling G to clients “that want more from their vacation than just five-star pampering. 

“Promote the experiences of local markets, safe street food, walking tours versus always seeing a destination through a bus window and authentic guides that will immerse you in your destination,” she says. 

Some of her personal highlights were also experiencing Oodles of Noodles and seeing firsthand the difference it is making in the lives of so many youths.

“Besides the fantastic food, my stand out moments were Halong Bay, kayaking and overnight on the boat, as the scenery was surreal and so beautiful. I loved the vibe of the night markets and how pretty it was in Hoi An with all the fantastic shopping for just about anything,” she adds. “Finally, I loved the history in Ho Chi Minh City and the tour of the tunnels. We should always know a country’s history to appreciate what they have been through and survived as a nation.”

Along with FAM trips and a 50% off agent rate on tours, English says Canadian agents also earn G dollars.  

“For every $10,000, like the booked value of a G tour, you would earn 500 G dollars. The way it works is, by being signed up in Sherpa, you’re automatically enrolled for G dollars. And it’s accumulative,” she says. “You have just over a calendar year to use them. They can use a maximum of $3,000 on a single tour, they can use it in addition to their 50% agent discount. So again, we make it really accessible for agents to experience our tours, they can also bring up to three companions for 25% each.

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