The flying Dutchman

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A room at Life Resort Quy Nhon

Louk Lennaerts came to Vietnam 15 years ago to fulfill his dream. The Dutchman, who used to live in Austria, says he used to work in emerging tourism markets in Eastern Europe like the Czech Republic.

The chief visionary officer as he calls himself of Serenity Holding company, which built and manages seven Fusion resorts in central and southern Vietnam, saw the huge potential in a country which had just begun to integrate with the world.

He says countries attract tourists in flocks when they open their doors and thus need hotels. Talking about the tourism industry in Vietnam 15 years ago, he says: "In the beginning there was not much competition but on the other hand the market was not developed."

Development in Vietnam is slower than in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, with the local system not changing much to accommodate new needs, he says. "But somehow it is better not to change too much."

He opened his first resort in Quy Nhon in 2003 and the next one in Hoi An.

The character of his resorts reflects his own, Louk, an architect who rarely stops smiling, says. Before developing a resort he goes around to get a feel of the location and tries to make sure it dovetails with the local culture and way of life.

"I wanted to make Life Resort in Quy Nhon simple," he says, explaining that life in the central city is simple but nice.

He was in fact one of the first resort developers in Vietnam to do this by incorporating local art and culture.

Louk Lennaerts at interview with Vietweek.

Life is on the beach and draws inspiration from Cham architecture and cultural heritage. Louk created something different using simple materials like concrete and stone.

Life Resort Heritage Hoi An reflects the melting pot of cultures the city used to be when it was the largest port in Southeast Asia dating from the 15th to the 19th century Traders came by ship from the Netherlands, Japan, Portugal, China, and other countries.

But again, he chose to use locally available materials like silk, lacquer, coconut leave, and stones. The Cham influence can be seen in the dome and tam cap (three-step staircase).

Five years ago Louk quit Life Resort group to start Serenity, developer and operator of the Fusion brand of resorts. It now operates properties in Da Nang, Phu Quoc, Da Lat, Ho Chi Minh City, Cam Ranh, and Ham Tan (Mui Ne).

Unlike most other international hotel management groups, Serenity does not just run resorts but also builds them from scratch for investors.

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