Big brands set foot in Luang Prabang

LUANG PRABANG, 2 August 2018: International brands are making their presence felt in Luang Prabang this year with Accor’s Pullman the newest arrival.

Since March, three international brands have stepped into Luang Prabang’s crowded hotel market, a scene dominated by locally owned boutique hotels.

Booking.com identifies 259 hotels vying for business in star-rated categories, while TripAdvisor suggests that are around 78 properties at the top-end.

Up until the arrival of Rosewood, Avani and Pullman, all in the last four months, the only  international brand of note was Sofitel.

Peeping over the brand parapet, Belmond La Residence Phou Vao has links to an international hotel group that counts 47 hotels, worldwide, but it lacks a strong sales and marketing footprint in Asia.

Aspiring to global greatness, Minor Group’s Avani brand was nailed to the door of the 53-room former Azerai resort without much fanfare in March.  Adrian Zecha, creator of various luxury brands including ‘Aman,’ developed Azerai from the shell of a 1914 former French officers’ mess and managed it until Minor Group acquired the contract.

Accor’s 123-room Pullman suffered repeated construction delays spanning five years, to the point Luang Prabang’s hotel community had almost forgotten it existed. It opened in June.

But the Pullman will demand attention if for nothing more than it has just delivered 123 five-star rooms to a market that is already over supplied.

At the very top of the luxury tree, Rosewood opened, 27 March, with 23 pool and riverside villas as well as luxury tented villas (75 sqm) positioned on a mountain ridge overlooking the resort’s villas and the Nam Dong River that flows through the property.

It’s the most expensive by a long stretch with a low-season mid-August rate of THB18,720 (Agoda), or THB24,081 (Booking,com).

The high season rates start at USD820++ (THB27,215) from 1 October.

So far, 12 reviews posted on TripAdvisor suggest a stay here is a remarkably fine-tuned and memorable experience especially the tented villas with their panoramic views of the valley and mountain ranges.

Reviewers were particularly impressed with the resort’s tailored itineraries curated by individual staff members and paid for by each guest, outside of the daily rate.

Asked for a comment on its in-house travel experiences, the property’s managing director, Elias Pertoft added: “We tailor itineraries for each guest depending on what they would like to experience during their visit.

“We do the majority of our excursions ourselves, from hiking between temples on the other side of the Mekong to cooking classes and mountain bike excursions in the hills above our resort.”

A thoughtful service for guests, the resort provides mobile phones so guests who visit the night bazaar in the centre of town, a distance of 7 km, can call for a pick-up.

Belmond La Residence Phou Vao has the second highest rate at THB12,654 (Agoda) and over the years has clocked an impressive 812 reviews and a top five bubble rating on TripAdvisor.

Avani quotes a rate of THB5,724 for a mid-August booking.  It has a 4.5 bubble rating and 100 reviews to its credit.

The 25-suite Sofitel Luang Prabang is the most recognised of the international brands in this world heritage town. It has amassed 720 reviews on TripAdvisor since it opened in 2016 and has a 4.5 bubble rating. Located in the grounds of what was once the French governor’s fort and residence its August discounted rate hovers around THB6,000 down from THB7,877.

Pullman, probably because it has 123 rooms to fill, pegs its rate at THB2,561 in August; not a bad rate for a five-star player fresh in the market. It’s a little out of town but then the Rosewood is too at 7 km from the night bazaar.

There are two boutique style hotels that are also linked to Accor. The 24-room Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel by Angsana has a rate of THB3,994 and the 15-room Hotel 3 Nagas M Gallery by Sofitel pegs its August rate at THB3,860.

A couple of independent boutique hotels compete with the international brands price-wise. The 24-suite Luang Say Residence quotes THB6,275 for August bookings, It has over 700 TripAdvisor reviews and a five bubble rating.

The 31 room Satri House Secret Retreat quotes its best August rate at THB4,992 on Booking.com. It has rating of 9.3.