HANOI -- With the coronavirus pandemic abruptly wiping out international guest bookings, luxury hotels in Vietnam increasingly provide lodging for foreigners under quarantine as a way to survive the crisis.
Hotels find conversion into isolation facilities an attractive alternative because it guarantees that rooms will be occupied for 14 to 15 days. They can charge higher-than-usual rates for stays that include three meals a day.
FLC Grand Hotel Halong, a five-star facility on the famous island-dotted Halong Bay east of Hanoi, accommodated around 500 Japanese visitors in May and June. The bill for a 14-night stay at the hotel run by real estate giant FLC came to roughly 44 million dong ($1,900), one such customer said.
Guests receive roughly the same services as before the pandemic. Laundry of up to 12 items is offered every two days, while rooms are cleaned every other day by staff donning personal protection equipment. Bottled water is supplied every two days as well.
Guests are required to stay in their rooms at all times during quarantine, but "I didn't feel as stressed as I had thought I would, and got a lot of work done," one customer said.
Even Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, the storied landmark that opened in 1901, has set aside about 90 of its rooms since June for those who need to isolate themselves. Room rates at the venue of the 2019 U.S.-North Korea summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un normally start around 6.5 million dong a night.
All travelers entering Vietnam face a 14-day quarantine. Vietnamese nationals generally go to dedicated facilities run by local governments, while foreign citizens mostly are hosted at hotels.
Over 200 hotels have turned a total of 18,000 rooms into self-isolation spaces across Vietnam, local media report. They have accommodated business travelers from Japan, South Korea and elsewhere, and the hotels eventually expect to welcome more family members of these individuals.
"Securing our ordinary target customers -- international travelers -- is impossible at this time," said a manager of one such site. "Repurposing into quarantine hotels makes the most sense as it offers high margins."
Vietnam's roughly 14,000 international arrivals in July represent a 98.9% drop from a year earlier, according to the country's General Statistics Office.
Occupancy rates at foreign-owned five-star hotels in major cities have plummeted to between 5% and 10%. Yet they continue operating because temporary closures would make securing customers difficult when they reopen. Maintenance complications also discourage luxury hotels from simply shutting down for a while.
After a streak of no domestic coronavirus transmissions for about 100 days, Vietnam was hit by a resurgence in late July when an outbreak emerged in the coastal tourism hub of Danang and spread across the country. Domestic air travel has plummeted once again, with many companies discouraging long-distance business trips.