Business Treaveler logo

Travel news, reviews and intel for high-flyers

Business Travelers Mix Business with Pleasure in Ho Chi Minh City

New destination option opens up a confusing destination to business travelers seeking quick authentic experiences

The Bureau Asia and the Barbershop Vu Tri are jointly launching The Bureau Experiences, which is a set of experiences for busy business people (mostly men in this case) who want to get more of a feel for the city in which they are doing business, without the hassle and anxiety of organizing it themselves.

The Bureau believes that first and foremost, the travel experience should be enjoyed. However, as travelers are thousands of miles from home, living out of a suitcase, running from meeting-to-meeting, checking in-and-out of hotels, and waiting for flights, that goal can be elusive.

In a seething metropolis like Ho Chi Minh City with 10 million inhabitants and almost as many motorcycles, the effort of dealing with the language barrier and getting lost in gridlocked, disorienting streets and alleyways can mean the enjoyment factor of an experience is easily lost.

The Bureau Asia has a plan.

The Busy Business Traveler

“The Busy Businessman” was the experience of an Australian businessman, David Rogers, until he learned through a friend about The Bureau Experiences.

“I had done some research on Ho Chi Minh City before I went, but nothing really prepares you for it,” says the 45 year-old engineer. “It’s an assault on the senses and can be quite stressful, especially when it’s difficult to know where to find things.”

“On my last trip, my return flight back to Australia wasn’t until the evening, but I was required to check out of my hotel by midday, which left me with a few hours to spare before departing for the airport,” says David. “That’s when I decided to give The Bureau Experiences a try.”

Barbershop Vu Tri

The Bureau Experiences is the brainchild of a partnership between The Bureau Asia, an online travel and lifestyle magazine based in Ho Chi Minh City, and the legendary Barbershop Vu Tri, a brand of 13 barber shops across the city that have been in the men’s grooming game since 1992.

Brothers Vu and Tri brought their father’s barbershop business literally in off the street and into modernity, while their father, remarkably, still chooses to barber on the sidewalk just steps from his sons’ original shop.

The idea behind The Bureau Experiences concept came about as the brothers wanted to offer experiences beyond the usual cultural site visit, tired stage performance or cooking class concepts.

“Ho Chi Minh City doesn’t really have those big ticket tourist attractions like many other popular cities among tourists around the world,” says Matt Cowan, the founder and chief of The Bureau Asia. “But it’s a city that, once you scratch the surface, reveals the hidden charm that people have talked about for centuries, and we’ve done that scratching for you.”

Bleisure Travel and Authentic Experiences

Adding leisure time to business trips is a growing phenomenon. Reports indicate more than 70 percent of travelers have a desire to extend business trips for travel and leisure purposes.

As the “bleisure” market has grown, so has the preference for authentic cultural experiences.

“With Ho Chi Minh City’s rapid development, we’ve noticed an increase in business travelers wishing to tack on some extra time to their trips in order to experience more of what the city has to offer,” says Cowan, who has been living in Ho Chi Minh City since 2010.

“Unfortunately, Ho Chi Minh City is pigeonholed as a ‘fly-in/fly-out’ point on travel agency itineraries, but there’s so much more to the city if you give it a chance.”

The Bureau Experiences  

There are a number of experiences to choose from, starting with the basic Busy Businessman Experience, which starts with a pick up by car from the hotel or designated pick up point, which then takes the businessmen to the nearest Barbershop Vu Tri.

Once there, they get a calming hair and face wash, a head and shoulder massage, professional haircut, including a shave or beard trim as required, after which businessmen are dropped back to their hotel.

There’s also the option of paying extra to get dropped at the airport, fresh and ready to catch their next flight. But if the client has a little more time, say a couple of hours, they might want the VIP Businessman Experience. This experience adds a welcome drink of whisky or local craft beer on arrival in the barbershop’s VIP Room of polished floorboards and sofas, with music and a small bar that’s always open.

Small groups of colleagues can opt for some ‘bromance’ time together with the Lads & Lords Experience that allows exclusive access to the VIP Room for as long as it takes (approx. 3 hours) to chat over a whisky or craft beer at the bar in between each grooming treatment.

Then, there’s The Lot Experience, which gives businessmen the option of calling in a tailor to measure them up for a new suit, or take a craft brewery tour to see how one of Vietnam’s best craft beers is made, have an exclusive dinner with one of the city’s finest chefs, or a have a “happy hour” experience in one of Ho Chi Minh City’s many lively bars.

“These days,” explains Cowan, “it’s not taboo to mix business with pleasure, in fact, we encourage it. This is is all about experiences that are authentic, enjoyable and no stress.”