Sustainability from the heart at ÊMM Hotel Saigon

Sustainability from the heart at ÊMM Hotel Saigon

TMG – It was not easy for all 11 hotels under Thien Minh Group (TMG) to meet 140 out of 163 criteria at first assessment to achieve the Travelife Gold Certification for Accommodation Sustainability. It was even more challenging for the staff of ÊMM Hotel Saigon, a 3-star hotel specializing in serving business and leisure guests in Ho Chi Minh City.

Mr. Huynh Ngoc Thuong, General Manager of ÊMM Hotel Saigon.

“Despite being a 3-star hotel, we tried to implement 4- and 5-star standards to ensure service quality, meeting the criteria to help make TMG the first company in Vietnam to have its entire hotel and resort network achieve Travelife Gold Certification”, said ÊMM Hotel Saigon General Manager Huynh Ngoc Thuong.

However, meeting these strict criteria wasn’t an impossible task as they had already aligned with the TMG’s existing practices and those of Mr. Thuong himself over his nearly two decades at Victoria Chau Doc Hotel and, more recently, three years of managing ÊMM Hotel Saigon.

ÊMM Hotel Sai Gon won the title of top 3-star hotel in 2023.

How has your work changed in the hospitality industry over two decades, from working at Victoria Chau Doc to ÊMM Hotel Saigon?

Mr. Huynh Ngoc Thuong: I started working at Victoria in 2000. I was there for 18 years, then moved to Ho Chi Minh City. I left TMG to manage a number of hotels in District 1 before returning to ÊMM Hotel Saigon at the end of 2020.

Victoria Chau Doc is a 4-star hotel that’s operated like a resort, serving mainly tourists. It is closely connected to the local culture, so the service is genteel, friendly, and imbued with the warm hospitality that the people of the Mekong Delta are known for.

On the other hand, ÊMM Hotel Saigon is a youthful and dynamic urban hotel, mainly serving business and leisure guests. Therefore, there’s more emphasis on comfortable guest rooms, convenient services, and fast, efficient assistance for guests traveling for business and tourism.

Between these two hotel models, the biggest challenge for me was the nature of the guest market. At Victoria, tourists, especially international visitors, often make travel plans in advance, so they book ahead of time. At ÊMM Hotel Saigon, guests book rooms close to the day of their stay, creating a lot of pressure when it comes to selling rooms.

ÊMM Hotel Saigon mainly serves business and leisure guests.

This difference took me quite a bit of time to adjust to. Fortunately, I received great support from Mr. Tran Trong Kien, the CEO of TMG. Mr. Kien is a talented leader in many fields, including sales. He personally trained the hotel management and sales teams. I and the staff at TMG’s various entities have learned a lot from Mr. Kien.

These skills have helped the staff of ÊMM Hotel Saigon adapt very well to many conditions, including the most difficult period when the COVID-19 pandemic cast a dark shadow worldwide. ÊMM Hotel Saigon was one of the few hotels that did not close its doors or cut personnel but focused on changing how we operated in order to survive.

When social distancing was in effect in Ho Chi Minh City, ÊMM Hotel Saigon remained open to host Japanese experts who could not return home and accommodated frontline workers fighting the pandemic. We even offered home-delivered meal service, which generated income while helping employees hone their skills.

Does this adaptability explain why ÊMM Hotel Saigon, despite being a 3-star hotel, was able to implement sustainable practice standards, helping TMG achieve Travelife Gold Certification across the entire hotel network?

Mr. Huynh Ngoc Thuong: Travelife Gold has 163 very strict criteria. In the first year of accreditation, we had to meet 140 criteria to receive this well-regarded certification.

Of course, this required good adaptation, especially by a 3-star hotel trying to achieve 4-star standards like ÊMM Hotel Saigon. However, a more important factor is that sustainable development has become a common practice among TMG members.

Therefore, of those 140 criteria, about 80% had already been in place on a daily basis, with the remaining 20% needing to be re-standardized, updated, and practiced more regularly and methodically.

In addition, the group established a separate committee on sustainable development to guide member properties on how to comply with and control the process. As a result, all 11 hotels and resorts in the network were able to implement these processes methodically and synchronously.

Because of these daily practices, we weren’t necessarily trying to achieve the Travelife Gold certification. Instead, we aimed to become a truly responsible business for the community and the tourism industry.

For example, in the past, our hotels used plastic water bottles but have now switched to glass bottles that can be reused many times. We also practice waste sorting, chemical management, and invite guests and partners to join in… to meet Travelife Gold’s sustainability criteria.

ÊMM Hotel Saigon

By 2025, Travelife will re-assess the Travelife Gold certification, requiring that all 163 criteria be met. Only 23 criteria remain, but they are the most difficult. This is also the motivation for ÊMM Hotel Saigon to constantly improve its work toward sustainable development instead of being satisfied with the current results.

Company culture is a key factor for a business to develop sustainably. In your opinion, what is special about TMG’s culture that makes practicing sustainable development a habit with all its member properties?

Mr. Huynh Ngoc Thuong: Since Victoria Hotels & Resorts started operating in Vietnam in the 1990s, a core value has been respecting and promoting local culture. TMG has continued to develop and build on this.

For that reason, we always keep in mind that providing accommodation and resort services requires more than just satisfying customers. It also means creating and spreading good values for the environment and community.

First among these are practices aimed at reducing negative environmental impacts, such as limiting waste, saving electricity, and saving water in all behind-the-scenes areas and guest rooms. Many people probably think about this first when it comes to the concept of sustainable development.

However, our vision goes further than that, with the motto of putting people at the core. With that in mind, we have focused on providing tourism and resort activities imbued with local cultural identity, showcasing the beauty of the area and the soul of the country to many domestic and foreign tourists.

Even though ÊMM Hotel Saigon is an urban hotel, we still try to integrate Vietnamese cultural elements, especially those characteristic of Saigon. For example, the Spice Viet Restaurant menu on the second floor of ÊMM Hotel Saigon has dishes representing the cuisine of all three regions in Vietnam. For breakfast, guests can have quintessentially Saigonese dishes like banh mi sandwiches, pho, and grilled pork with broken rice.

For these dishes, we try not to use imported ingredients but prioritize local products, buying fresh, reliably sourced ingredients used that same day. Our guests really love these culinary experiences, especially international and overseas Vietnamese guests.

In the lobby on the ground floor, ÊMM Hotel Saigon has a cart serving “net coffee” (coffee filtered through a net), a throwback to Old Saigon when aluminum coffee filters were expensive. Next to that is a souvenir stall selling products made by hearing-impaired artisans from District 4 as a way for us to contribute to supporting the community.

That is also how ÊMM Hotel Saigon differentiates itself, especially when competing in a market where many other hotels offer more high-end services and amenities.

TMG properties also focus on the human element because people are at the heart of the service industry. Sustainable human resource management at ÊMM Hotel Saigon and other properties is reflected in how we treat employees day-to-day. Clear salary and remuneration packages, along with regular training and soft skills development, contribute to our employees feeling satisfied and staying with the company for a long time.

Gender equality is also of great concern. We are always respectful when communicating with and supporting female employees. We create equal conditions for women regarding leadership and day-to-day operations while fully implementing maternity leave and observing holidays honoring women.

Also, TMG as a whole, and ÊMM Hotel Saigon in particular, are very enthusiastic about taking on interns looking to get practical work experience, adding to the supply of a high-quality labor force.

As a manager, you certainly understand the reasons for sustainable development practices. However, from the perspective of employees, especially those who have just joined TMG, it’s not a given that they have the right mindset and attitude about sustainable development. What can help employees integrate into TMG’s culture of sustainable development?

Mr. Huynh Ngoc Thuong: In the end, corporate culture comes from the top, from the group, and then from property managers like us. TMG has three basic values: health, kindness, and growth.

From the first week at ÊMM Hotel Saigon, new employees are trained on how to integrate into the Group and the hotel and about the basic principles of customer service. After that, in their respective departments, they continue to receive professional training and, most importantly, learn how to work in an environment of sharing and responsibility, thereby gaining the correct mindset and way of doing things.

Usually, it takes one to three months for an employee to integrate fully into the team.


Creating a sustainability mindset and awareness for employees right from the beginning is very important because it not only affects how they act towards guests but becomes a habit in their everyday lives, something they can share with family members and society at large.

Employees learn habits such as properly disposing of trash, adjusting the faucet so as not to waste water, and turning off electrical devices when not in use. They can then gradually pass on these habits to family members and others.

It’s because of this mindful culture, workplace equality, and the opportunity for self-development and upskilling that many employees who have had to leave the company to work elsewhere for a few years, like I did for family reasons, are very happy to re-join TMG. Like the Vietnamese say, “Birds always perch in safe spaces!”

Thank you very much!

The Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism recently awarded ÊMM Hotel Saigon a certificate for Best 3-star Hotel. In 2023, Mr. Huynh Ngoc Thuong was also named Model Hotel Manager by the Vietnam Tourism Association.

These are worthy accolades for ÊMM Hotel Saigon and Mr. Thuong personally as they continuously strive to provide guests with the best stay experience, benefiting the community and society at large.

Source: TheLEADER

For more information about ÊMM Hotels, please contact:

Hotline: 1800599955

Email: [email protected]


Established in 1994, TMG has grown from a company with just three employees to an enterprise with more than 2,500 employees worldwide. Thien Minh is now Asia’s leading package travel provider, founded on the mission of always putting our clients front and center. With four business pillars: Destination Management, Hospitality, Online, anh Aviation – TMG is the ideal host for distinctive journeys featuring truly memorable travel experiences.