Providing customers with memorable experiences is at the heart of every successful tour company, and the five-star Oasis Bay Party Cruise in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Ha Long Bay is no exception.
The cruise is owned and operated by travel agency and tour operator Viland Travel since late 2015. Tran Van Quan, CEO, founded the company in 2010 with a single cruise ship in Ha Long Bay. His company operates tours across Vietnam and runs Cocoon Inn – a hostel in Hanoi.
Quan’s vision for the Oasis Bay Party Cruise was simple. He wanted to host great parties surrounded by the majesty of Ha Long Bay. A lover of travel and partying, Quan was disappointed when he worked as a local tour guide that tourists had limited options for partying, so he set about changing that.
The result is the Oasis Bay Party Cruise on a boat with five jacuzzis, room for 100 guests and a professional DJ working the bay’s biggest sound system every night.
Quan and Viland’s product manager, Vo Phi, understand that a good party is made by good people. As Phi puts it:
“It’s more about the friends you make on the boat than anything else that ensures a good mix of eager partygoers will sign up.”
Luckily for those without Quan’s stamina, the cruise has more to offer than just boozing. There are kayaking facilities and floating trampolines for guests to enjoy.
While there are umpteen tour boats to choose from – Quan’s unique selling point is what makes this cruise a truly memorable experience. The Oasis Bay Party Cruise anchors in a spot free of onlookers. Granted, such priviledge often comes with payment. However, Quan thinks the freedom for his guests to enjoy themselves with no boats around is worth it.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though, and Quan and Phi have faced more than a few challenges.
For one, the local government of Quang Ninh Province, where Ha Long Bay is located, regularly changes laws and regulations surrounding the boats on the bay, often forcing the boat’s staff to adapt to new conditions quickly.
However, the biggest issue came when customers were handed their bill. Like every boat tour in Ha Long Bay, the Oasis Bay Party Cruise staff members would use pen and paper to keep track of guests’ purchases on board, with a receipt for each guest.
While this may seem like a hassle-free and cheap way to bill customers for their food and drinks, the reality was quite different.
“It gave us a lot of problems in the mornings.”
“Customers would argue with staff over items on their bills they believe they hadn’t ordered.”
“A natural consequence of a night of heavy drinking!” I laughed.
This put staff in an uncomfortable position. In the service industry, the customer is “always right” but bills have to be settled. Phi stressed that often staff had to explain to customers step-by-step what they had consumed over a 24 hour period – an already awkward conversation exacerbated by language barriers between staff and guests.
A Simple Solution
Always looking for ways to improve his customers’ experience, Quan set about finding a solution to this problem and found the Hottab Cruise Card.
The system works very simply. Before departure, each customer is given a Hottab Cruise Card in the Oasis Bay office in Halong City. Using the WiFi connection in the office, the card is linked to the cabin the customer will stay in on the boat before they board to track their purchases.
While at sea, whenever a customer wants to buy food or drink on board, they simply give their card to a staff member who scans the code on the back of the card using a barcode scanner. This is attached to a Hottab tablet on board the boat. This logs the purchase to their room without the need for an internet connection.
Once the cruise is over, the card is again hooked up to the internet in the Ha Long City office and is scanned again, providing the customer with a fully itemised bill they can then pay with cash or card.
The move to the Hottab Cruise Card brought benefits to the Oasis Bay party cruise in multiple ways.
According to Phi, recurring disputes over paying bills has stopped. This has improved customers’ experience and made employees’ lives easier. Using a card also meant customers don’t have to carry cash on the boat, which is more convenient for them and has also boosted sales on board. One guest even jokingly told Phi the new card was dangerous for his wallet!
Looking to the future, Quan wants to bring the convenience the Hottab Cruise Card brings to the Oasis Bay Party Cruise to the rest of Viland Travel.
“The reason why we contacted Hottab in the first place was we were looking for a tab system where customers could pay at the hostel – Cocoon Inn – and the boat as well.
“So we’re starting off with the boat, maybe later on in the future if Cocoon decides to branch out and open up a few more, then we could just have the tab system for Cocoon so customers can put money in and pay it wherever they go.”
Perhaps the best testament to the Hottab Cruise Card is how it has allowed customers to focus on having a good time instead of worrying about how much they have spent. As Quan sums it up:
“The customers are happy with that kind of solution because it’s convenient.”