The Continental Hotel
under Saigontourist Holding Company celebrated its 122nd anniversary on
September 27,2002, becoming Vietnam's oldest hotel, having survived three
In the late 19th century,
there were no automobiles and airplanes in Saigon. The high-class traveled
in the city by horse-drawn carriages. This means of transport was quite
popular on the Catinat (now Dong Khoi), the main street in Saigon at the
time. In 1880, French architects started work on a luxury hotel there, which
was to be seen as a landmark in the city's social and economic life and a
milestone of the hospitality business in Saigon.
The majority of the
Continental Hotel's customers were French officials, high-ranking civil
servants, ladies and luxury travelers who stopped by Saigon on their tours
from Hong Kong to Japan or on their trips to the Angkor Temples, the world's
In 1911, Duke De Montpensier,
a famous playboy in France, came to Vietnam, carrying with him a car to make
a trip to the Angkor Temples. When he was in Saigon, De Montpensier decided
to buy the Continental Hotel from the owners and offered it to a countess. A
monument he left in Vietnam is the Lau Ong Hoang (Tower of the Lord) in Phan
Thiet (Binh Thuan Province).
In 1930, Le Van Mau, a
Vietnamese landlord in My Tho Township, bought the Continental Hotel from De
Montpensier, and transferred the property to his French son-in-law for
management. It is certain to say that Mau was the first Vietnamese owner of
the then largest hotel in Vietnam.
The 1930s were the heyday of
the Continental Hotel, which was renovated to French standards. Only wealthy
people could afford to stay at the most luxurious hotel in Saigon at that
time where they could sit in the terrace enjoying the fresh air from the
Saigon River, drinking wine or tea and watching traffic on Catinat Street.
Some of the celebrities who stayed at the hotel were famous French writer
and revolutionary Andre Malreaux and noted Indian poet Ranbindranath Tagore.
During the Vietnam War,
renowned British writer Graham Greene stayed in Room 214 where he created
"The Quiet American," a book about the waning days of the French in
Indochina and the beginning of the American presence in Vietnam, which was
made into movie in 2001. Some VIP guests who graced the hotel after 1975
included French President Giscard D'Estaiing and Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac
(now French president).
The Continental is now a
three-star hotel with 83 rooms, two western restaurants, a 200-plus seat
conference hall, a bar and other facilities like sauna and massage. Apart
from the reputation as Vietnam's oldest hotel, the
Continental enjoys a prime
location in downtown Saigon near the Municipal Theater and is considered a
cultural landmark of the city. Last year, its occupancy rate averaged 80%.
The rate in the first eight months of this year rose to 90%. Most guests
were Britons, Germans, French, Japanese, Americans, Canadians and
Australians. To attract customers, the hotel is promoting online marketing
through a website with six languages (English, French, Japanese, Spanish,
German and Vietnamese). Revenue from online booking in the first eight
months of this year made up 6% of room turnover.
"Our prime concern now is
service. We want to attract and keep guests, especially prospective buyers
of the MICE (meeting, incentive, conference and exhibition) tours," said
Vuong Anh Tuan, Continental Hotel manager. The hotel also pays great
attention to personnel training. Training and re-training courses are held
annually to help management and staff update knowledge and improve skills up
to international standards. Foreign language learning, especially Japanese
and German in addition to English and French, is also intensified.
In the future, the
Continental Hotel will boost efforts to promote itself as the oldest hotel
in Vietnam and develop a French and an Italian restaurants with the
cooperation of foreign chefs. "The plan aims to develop business and promote
the hotel as a European dining venue in HCM City," said Tuan. Continental
Address: 132-134 Dong Khoi
Street, District 1, HCM City Tel: 8299201
Continental Hotel Biography
D 1880: A project to build
the Hotel Continental Palace was realized by Pierre Cazeau, a home-appliance
and construction material producer
D 1911: The hotel was bought
by Duke De Montpensier
D 1920s: Catinat Street,
where Hotel Continental Palace was located, was dubbed Saigon's "Canebire,"
the name of a famous street in the city of Marseille, France. The famous
French writer Andre Malreaux and his wife were among the hotel's permanent
guests from 1924-1925.
D 1930: Mathieu Franchini
bought the hotel and ran it successfully for 30 years. He left Vietnam after
the French colonial regime came to an end. During W orId War II, several
American magazines stationed their bureaus at the
Continental Hotel, Time on the first floor and Newsweek on the second.
1964-1975: Philippe, Mathieu
Franchini's son, ran the hotel until 1964 when he left Vietnam. Then came the
time when "Newsmen covering the Vietnam War measured the ups and downs of its
course by the fortunes of the hotel," as written in the book "Great Oriental
Hotels" by Martin Meade, Joseph Fitchett and Anthony Lawrence; or as William
Tuohy, Newsweek magazine's Saigon Bureau chief, wrote in his book "Dangerous
Company": "After writing our stories, we would gather around for dinner and
The reason for the Newsmen to
choose the Hotel Continental was simple: It is located in the heart of Saigon,
adjacent to the National Assembly (now the municipal theater) where the press
circle would gather around for collecting information and discussing political
issues and all. The hotel was then called "Radio Catinat."
D 1975: The hotel was closed
after Apri130, 1975
D 1986: The hotel was officially
taken over by Saigon tourist Holding Company
D Sept. 1989-present: A new
Hotel Continental was born, but its original French architecture has remained
unchanged. The hotel has become a great rendezvous for business travelers and
tourists who want to enjoy its romantic, elegant air and modern, luxurious