The central Vietnamese cities of Hoi An and Danang may be lesser known to U.S. travelers than Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, but their wealth of memorable activities, luxurious venues and historic charm make them worthy of inclusion in an incentive program to this Southeast Asian country.
Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers a wealth of stunning sites and rich history. The preserved trading port is packed with fascinating history in its historic family homes, incense-filled pagodas, 17th-century Japanese Bridge and unassuming museums (the entrance ticket to the Old Town costs a few bucks and includes admittance to up to five of its 22 heritage sites). But Hoi An is no relic: The place is teeming with energy from hard-selling merchants, motorcycles zipping by and the smell of cao lầu and bahn mi wafting from street-front restaurants such as Morning Glory or Banh Mi Phuong (the late Anthony Bordain's favorite spot for a budget-friendly sandwich). The Precious Heritage Museum and Art Gallery, showcasing photographer Réhahn's eight-year effort to document all 54 ethnic tribes of Vietnam through costumes and portraits, also provides attendees with an opportunity to learn about Vietnam's diverse cultures and pick up a piece of original art.
Another draw of Hoi An is the incredible shopping: The destination is famous for handmade items including shoes, clothes and ceramics (see sidebar).
Danang, about 20 minutes from Hoi An, is best-known for its stunning scenery and the astounding Golden Bridge: Two giant stone hands, protruding from high atop a mountain, clasping an almost 500-foot-long "golden thread" across which hundreds of people walk daily. It's part of the Sun World Ba Na Hills recreational complex, about 12 miles outside of central Danang and reachable by the longest and highest cable car system in the world (an amazing experience in itself). It opened just about two years ago, but has become one of the most Instagrammed attractions in the region -- ideal for incentive attendees looking to get friends and family back home to ask, "where is that?".
After that initial wonder, there are plenty of other sights and experiences throughout the sprawling mountaintop of Sun World, including towering pagodas, manicured gardens and rollercoasters.
Among the incentive-level properties in Danang is the Sheraton Grand Danang Resort. The striking hotel sits on serene Non Nuoc Beach, with views of the towering Lady Buddha statue (the tallest Buddha statue in the country) up the coast and Marble Mountains a few minutes away (definitely worth a visit, though better experienced on your own rather than as part of a guided tour). Speaking of Instagram-ready images, the property has one of the longest pools in Vietnam, stretching 820 feet to an infinity edge. Those looking for deeper relaxation can book an appointment at the Shine Spa by Sheraton, offering a wide menu of treatments, including a traditional Vietnamese massage using coconut oil, hot stone therapy and facials.
It boasts a range of dining options, including the signature The Grill steak house, stylish Mix Bar and outdoor La Plage beach club. Table 88, just off the lobby, serves threee meals a day, including an opulent breakfast buffet and classic Vietnamese dishes for dinner. Every room delivers an incentive-level experience, whether with a pool view or sea view, but VIPs have a number of options, from the deluxe room with its own plunge pool to the Royal Suite, complete with whirlpool bathtub, media room and dining room.
For gatherings, the property has more than 170,000 square feet of high-tech meeting space spread across 14 function spaces (including a pool lawn and beach party deck). Its Sheraton Grand Ballroom stretches almost 14,000 square feet and offers state-of-the-art A/V, whether for a corporate gathering or luxurious gala dinner. The Sheraton Grand Danang Resort, which was named Best Meetings Hotel in Vietnam during the 2019 M&C Asia Stella award ceremony, holds a rarified place in global history: it was the site of 2017 APEC, the first summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
But incentive attendees here can be forgiven for forgetting about this recent history as they put their energy toward poolside relaxation.