It’s lunchtime and I have an appointment with Louk Lennaerts, founder and chief visionary officer of Serenity holding, a company designing, developing and managing big projects in the hospitality sector.
The most famous project Serenity holding has been designing, building and now managing is the 5 star luxury resort Fusion Maya Da Nang.
When Mr Lennaerts first arrived to Vietnam 18 years ago, he was fascinated by the opportunities offered by the country and he wanted to develop something new, something great.
All through the years he started up many projects in hospitality in Vietnam but it has not always been a smooth ride. He mostly relied only on his knowledge and capacities but he never gave up. Fusion Maya Da Nang is to date his biggest accomplishment: he put his heart and soul in it and the fact that the resort is truly successful, and the fact that the occupancy is constantly around 80-90% makes him really proud of it, rightfully so.
“Fusion Maya really is a place where one can let go and relax completely. It is an amazingly beautiful place, but not only that: it is the first resort in Vietnam where spa services are included in the price”, he said.
Yes, correct, spa included. And, according to Mr Lennaerts that kind of approach works miracles on people who almost feel obliged to use the spa services because it’s for free. People are forced to relax and after a couple of days, the difference is astonishing.
The intention of Mr Lennaerts is to revolutionise the way spas are used and the way wellness isperceived. At Fusion Maya there are 80 people working in the spa daily; the best service is always provided and the staff is aiming at making it one of the best spas in Asia.
For Mr Lennaerts it’s the first step towards achieving something great for Vietnam: “The ultimate dream is to put Vietnam on a map as the place to be for wellness”, he said. “When people think about spas and relaxation nowadays, they think of Thailand or Bali and we want to change that, we want Vietnam to be that place.”
He is part of an association, Central Coast Vietnam, CCV, busy promoting the area of Da Nang, Hue and Hoi An with the purpose of making the area a major travel and leisure destination: “The only city developed properly in Vietnam is Da Nang; they are connecting with the world, building bridges and roads; the chairman who was in Da Nang built a lot despite criticism, because he saw that developing was important, he sold the land to investors, he even planned a metro.”
“Vietnam should be much more developed. This country needs better infrastructure, better roads: connections are the most important thing”, he said. “Now the frontier of luxury travel development is the area of Da Nang because it has the best connections: we have straight flights to Hong Kong, China, Russia, Korea, Singapore, soon Bangkok and we are as CCV in talks with Vietnam Airlines for a connection to Siem Reap.”
Mt Lennaerts brought another element in our conversation: “When people are going on holiday they want a mix of things: they maybe want to play golf, but they don’t want to only play golf, they also want the culture, the fun. A connection to Siem Reap for example could give all that: people from Japan or Korea don’t have a lot of holidays and they want to experience and see as much as possible. With that connection, they can see Angkor Wat, come to Da Nang, play golf, swim and relax in the spas, so have a complete package. Connections are critical”, he said, “Once you have a connection, you can make a destination”.
Mr Lennaerts is a true chief visionary officer: he sees the big picture and has his own philosophy: “To be successful you need to work with your heart, train people to do the same and not by plainly following instructions. A great team makes the difference”.
Vietnam is on a crossroad according to him: “This country can be so much more successful than Thailand, people here are friendlier, they have personality and they are more fun as well”. “But the general mentality has to change, we have to take the right steps and develop wisely, not misuse the resources and work together and I can see it happening that in a few years there will be an over demand for Vietnam”.