Gillian Murphy, Executive Vice President of Hoiana Resort & Golf targets ambitious development in Vietnam

With just 90 hectares of a 1,000-hectare property currently in use, Hoiana Resort & Golf has an ambitious plan for how high to set the bar in Vietnam. The integrated resort has dialed in on VIP and premium mass, with its golf offering a primary driver.

Focused more on Korean customers, Hoiana is competing with other regional properties with similar focuses, but aims to outshine the competition with natural beauty, cultural offerings and class.

Gillian Murphy, Executive Vice President of Hoiana Resort and Golf. Thanks for sitting down with us, it was great to hear you talk earlier about the resort – where it is right now and where it’s going. It’s a very interesting project. And you’ve already invested over a billion dollars, how much more investment is planned?

The project is suggested at $4 billion, we are fortunate to be residing on about 90 hectares of a potential 1,000 hectares. So that use of land will develop into more hotels, other golf courses, to private residences, and also expansion for local housing, and a light industry. So it’s a really mixed use and creates a tremendous economic zone for Quang Nam province.

There are other integrated resorts within Vietnam, how would you say this distinguishes itself from some of the other properties?

Clearly, I’m slightly biased. But I would say from a product perspective, and because it’s new – one of our competitors I believe is 10 years old, 12 years old, which is Ho Tram, and then we have Corona. And they are very much in the south, we are in the middle, close to Da Nang airport. And I believe that what we can do is provide something that’s fresh, unique, a great product, but very focused on our experiences on our type of restaurants that we have, with authenticity, and just a beautiful place that’s anchored around one of the best golf courses in Southeast Asia.

Judging by the marketing materials and what you’ve shown so far, you’ve definitely highlighted the beauty of the golf course. And there are more in the pipeline as well. While the current property is only 90 of the 1,000 hectares, what does it comprise?

What will be involved is more hotels, which will help the IR as it develops. And we have currently 300 slot. And what we look forward is to grow our EG to 1,000. So we’ve got some good growth potential, having the room inventory and having the activity on property choices for people. I talked a little bit I believe about the four hotels that we opened with – 1,200 rooms. We have long-stay residences which are beautiful. I will class it as five-star butler serviced, a really wonderful property.

And then we have New World Beach Resort, which is a really spectacular full-service for families, and then more of a tour and travel position. And that suits the golfer who wants to spend most of the time on the golf course. So we’ve got something for everybody across a lot of price points. And I believe that’s part of our strategy as we can go to market and meet almost any request, including MICE business and those that just want to vacation or come gaming with us.

In terms of the ideal customer that you’re looking at, have you done a customer breakdown in terms of nationality? What are you expecting?

We have. What we intended in 2020 – we opened in June – Vietnam was so supportive, because it allowed us to stay open through the whole pandemic. We have beautiful housing and accommodation for our staff, which is quite unique, really, really wonderful. So we’re able to take care of our staff and be able to work our way through COVID and then start to pull out and see business return. Where it came back from first and foremost was with Korea.

And so about 68 percent of our business right now is Korean. They love the Vietnam weather. They love the golf course, they love our gaming floor. We’ve got a great Korean authentic restaurant. So I think it’s a nice market for us that we will hope to even expand some more. The other targeted markets being Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand – as we’ve heard lots about, some business from Cambodia, from Laos – more on the domestic side of things. And there are a significant number of people in Vietnam that hold a dual passport. So we don’t ignore that domestic market.

That was also pretty strong during the pandemic right?

We still had some. I wouldn’t call it strong but we managed to keep going. In many ways, it allowed us to keep finishing the property and phase one of the property will be finished very shortly. And then all of the amenities, facilities, just completely spectacular.

Regarding the casino it’s a foreigner-only casino. Are there any expectations that might be able to change to also welcome locals aside from the ones who hold multiple passports?

The Vietnam government have finished, are working on, a trial period with one of the IRs that can allow locals, studying that. There are two IRs in the pipeline, one in Ba Na Hills (Da Nang), one in Van Don (Quang Ninh province), that we are advised are going to get locals gaming. So we are encouraged, obviously, to work with the authorities to make our case and to see what might be available. I think it’s a matter of when, and how we can support and show what we can contribute, whether it’s jobs, tax revenue, and hopefully get the recognition of this place in Quang Nam that everyone is very proud of.

Looking at the beauty of the property itself, the golf course focus, it doesn’t appear that it’s going for any type of the Macau mass-market model. What is the focus, is it more towards premium?

Our focus is on VIP business, and on premium mass business. Mass business because we’re relatively a small casino in the scheme of life, with 140 tables and, and the size and circulation of the 1,200 rooms. Our focus is very much on the premium end of the market.

How do you see Vietnam compared to some of the regional gaming jurisdictions?

I think we are rather special inasmuch as we embrace the community, the culture, we’re 15 minutes from Hoi An, which is a heritage site. You could be scuba diving in the morning, you could be playing golf in the afternoon and having a fun evening on our gaming floor later. So, there’s just an awful lot that we offer anchored on the heritage and the tradition. And, last but not least, great people who like doing things for others, are kind people. And working together, we think we’ve got something a little bit different than if you were in downtown Macau or Las Vegas.

Well, it certainly looks spectacular. I look forward to seeing it in person. Thank you very much for joining us.