Hanoi and Dubai

Dubai - ventdusud/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
photo by Images Plus/Getty Images



Camel Riding in Dubai was one of Wilson-Buttigieg’s more memorable experiences.


Visiting Hanoi and Dubai within months of each other, and both for the first time, I felt fortunate that I was able to explore cities that are still emerging and constantly changing. Hanoi and Dubai are famous cities for their own reasons and have deep-rooted histories, yet they differ in their architecture, culture and tradition. For me, it’s about finding a balance and enjoying each destination’s blend of old and new.

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As a member of the Sofitel Travel Agent Advisory Board, one of my tasks at the landmark Sofitel Metropole Hanoi was to compare the grace and elegance of its Metropole Wing, which dates back to 1901, with the new Opera Wing that offers neoclassic elegance and concierge service.

In Dubai, which seems to have a new hotel opening every month, my charge was prospecting the Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach. I wondered how both hotels and their service levels blend old-world styles and new traditions with the needs of today’s traveler. What I found out was that Sofitel, in fact, does it well.

First, Hanoi: It is a culturally rich city, filled with vibrant colors and a passel of motorcycles. The Sofitel Metropole, one of the most famous hotels in the world, is an oasis in this bustling city. It displays its history in the themed suites and original section of the Metropole Wing, and stays true to its historical grandeur by seamlessly blending fine cuisine, service and upcoming spa facilities. Sofitel is focusing on fine wines, French pastries and cheese tastings, as well as new restaurants and casual but “in” bars—something for each guest to feel that “Life is Magnifique” and experience the art of living with the best of local products. With my hotel background, I not only look at the operational and physical logistics of a property but also appreciate how important food and beverage is to the entire picture. It’s a pleasure to see Sofitel focusing on this aspect of revenue and service—a point of differentiation—as it moves forward.

The launch of Sofitel’s iconic hotels, such as the Metropole Hanoi, as part of the “legend” collection, will add credibility to the chain’s growing reputation in the luxury hotel arena. Having visited the property recently, I can state that the Metropole provides an exemplary level of personalized service and will further secure its new luxury positioning strategy. One of the highlights was utilizing the services of their elegantly dressed and “in-the-know” personal shoppers who not only help you navigate the crowded and narrow streets but also find what you are looking for. They even assist in negotiating for silk scarves, oil paintings or water buffalo sculptures.

I love to walk through the markets to take in the diverse and interesting smells of the products on sale. For me, it was the fresh crabs and flowers in baskets, all sold in the way they have been for generations. Then, upon returning to the Sofitel Metropole, I was struck by the pleasure of receiving some of the market’s beautiful fresh fruit in a bright red lacquer box (not a basket), presented by Sofitel as an amenity in my suite. Then there were the comforts I have come to expect, such as the Sofitel MyBed, broadband Internet, DVD player and all the modern luxuries.



The Sofitel Metropole Hanoi was originally built in 1901 and was a favorite haunt of writer Graham Greene.


So, from ending my Vietnam experience to arriving in Dubai a few months later, it was clear that Sofitel’s new Standard Operational Procedures, being implemented across the portfolio, will ensure a luxury experience is obtained at every Sofitel hotel. I think perception and value are key aspects in attaining market share, and Sofitel is perfectly positioned to achieve a new level of recognition in its own space.



Hanoi has both a cosmopolitan and agrarian side.


My sojourn in Dubai was a Valerie Wilson Travel organized fam trip for eight of our top producers. We experienced the elegant and efficient customer service of Emirates AirlinesOne&Only Royal Mirage and the Burj Al Arab. In total, we saw, dined and experienced 14 hotels in four days. Arabian Adventures flawlessly handled the meet-and-greet from pre-customs to all sightseeing and transfer arrangements, the desert jeep tours over the dunes, the camel rides and, yes, even arranged for a few of us to indoor snow ski the same day. The highlights of the Burj Al Arab are the Sky View Bar and the new restaurant, Junsui, which focuses on Asian cuisine. on the A380 aircraft from New York City. We were hosted jointly by the Kerzner Organization and Jumeirah Hotels and stayed at both the

I extended my trip by a day to see the new Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach in the heart of “new” Dubai and adjacent to Dubai Media City/Internet City. I was treated like royalty and greeted by senior executives of Sofitel from Paris, the Middle East and the department heads of the property. This hotel is located in the only walking district of Dubai, with outdoor cafés, shops and galleries. The tour revealed that this property will cater to the corporate, leisure and meeting client, and each will value the attention to detail—from the stunning lapis rolling panels in the lobby and reception area, to the beautifully carved dark-wood paneling used throughout the accommodations, meeting space and spacious corridors.

Our role as travel consultants is always about matching up the property, place and experience with the traveler, and understanding their expectations. Sofitel has created the structure to support this through the Step Recognition Program, offering a “hero” or dedicated point-person at each hotel, as well as detailed training through Sofitel University.
These initiatives have been well-received among the deluxe agency community here in the U.S., and are ideal vehicles to help build long-standing partnerships on an ongoing basis. I look forward to supporting these and other initiatives in a prosperous and growing partnership with Sofitel Luxury Hotels.




At The Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach from left: Christian Hellot, director of sales and marketing, Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach; Nicolas Besse, Sofitel’s vice president of worldwide sales and e-distribution; Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, co-president, Valerie Wilson Travel; Gilles Longuet, general manager of Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach; and Raquel Lopez, vice president, sales and distribution, Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean, Sofitel Luxury Hotels.


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