Mr. Wataru Shintaku.
The health values brought by Quang Hanh hot mineral source (Cam Pha City, Quang Ninh Province) are said to be very rare in the world by Wataru Shintaku - the Japanese director of Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh Resort. He added that the COVID-19 pandemic is changing people’s travelling habits and health care tourism will be the dominating trend.
Why do you come to Viet Nam even though you have many years of experience in the management and operation of onsens in Japan?
Japan has more than 25,000 hot springs (onsen). Originally considered a kind of bath good for health only, onsens have been developed to become the most popular tourist attractions in Japan. In Japanese history, the popularity of onsens was clearly reflected through cultural development. Onsens satisfy the demand for fun and relaxation with friends, colleagues, families and couples. They are not just a quiet place to help people escape from the hustle and bustle of life but also a bridge to enhance social relationships. In Japan, hot springs and the therapeutic effects of onsens are believed to be a miraculous treatment with divine power thanks to the mineral content of geothermal water.
My life for the past 16 years has been attached to onsens in the whole country of Japan. I have managed 11 onsen areas, set up five new onsen areas and monitored the transfer and merger of four other onsen areas. These include Shofuku no Yu onsen covering an area of 4,300 m2, a large scale mineral bath area in Japan that attracts more than 700,000 tourists per year.
During that time, I took charge of many jobs including training staff and managers of onsen areas to ensure the operation of onsen service in compliance with specified standards. Therefore, when I had the opportunity to work with Sun Group on consulting, training and managing Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh, I had a lot of enthusiasm and expectation to introduce Japanese culture in general and Japanese bath culture in particular to Viet Nam. I hope Vietnamese people will love onsens and consider them as a part of their spiritual life as Japanese people do.
A bird view of Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh. — Photo courtesy of Sun Group.
How do you evaluate the quality of hot mineral sources as well as the opportunity to develop health care tourism in Viet Nam?
There are large-scale onsens in Japan. However, due to the limited land fund for construction, it is extremely difficult to build a large mineral spring resort. Furthermore, outdoor baths in Japan have their own limitations depending on the topography. It is different in Viet Nam. Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh is actually a really large mineral spring area favoured by nature for its extremely beautiful and majestic surrounding landscape. In my evaluation, there are three factors that make Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh a special and unique "phenomenon” which is probably very rare in the world:
Firstly, mineral sources in Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh have very high value with many health benefits. The analysis results of Quang Hanh mineral water samples sent to Tokyo for evaluation showed that mineral water from this hot spring is rich in healthy minerals. Particularly, the content of Na + and Cl- accounts for more than 20g/l. It also contains metasilicic acid, boric acid and a significantly large proportion of Bromine up to 40mg/l. This makes Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh one of three mineral water mines with the highest content of hot mineralised bromine in the world.
Hot mineralised bromine has many uses such as helping eliminate toxins, relieving pain and restoring musculoskeletal function, promoting blood circulation, boosting immunity, supporting the treatment of skin diseases, rejuvenating the skin, especially helping to refresh and reduce stress, good for the elderly and those with workplace stress. Mineral water here also has neutral pH, suitable for people of all ages, including those with the most sensitive skin.
Secondly, regarding topography, Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh is located in a charming and unique mountainous area surrounded by mountains and forests. Viewed from above, Yoko Onsen is like a small, peaceful and quiet Japanese village. While resting and experiencing Yoko Onsen, visitors will feel completely relaxed amidst a quiet, isolated and romantic natural space.
And the third difference is that Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh is built and operated in compliance with the standards of a luxury Japanese onsen resort. These baths are equipped with the first filtration system by continuous flow in Viet Nam, helping to remove impurities that are harmful to the skin and ensure good water quality even when there are many customers at the same time.
After its opening, Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh resort received extremely positive feedback from visitors with a full number of customers booking services during the day, especially at the weekends. I think these are compelling reasons for the uniqueness of this onsen which is expected to be popular among Vietnamese people with the onsen style.
Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh is expected to help stimulate tourism demand in Quang Ninh after the COVID-19 pandemic especially when the off-peak season is beginning in the north of Viet Nam. What do you think about this statement?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been causing enormous damage to the tourism industry. However, challenges also open up opportunities. I believe that after COVID-19 pandemic, there will be changes in tourists’ consumption, eating, shopping habits as well as their travelling habits. Popular tourism types will include health care tourism and holiday tourism in relatively isolated spaces.
As reported by the Global Wellness Institute, the health care tourism market achieves an increase in the growth rate by 6 per cent per annum while this figure of the whole tourism industry is 3 per cent per annum. Health care tourism is expected to continue to expand at an even faster growth rate, about 7.5 per cent per annum with a value of US$919 billion in 2020.
We are making every effort to make Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh Luxury Hot Spring Resort become potential in that trend, helping Quang Ninh catch up with the trend among other potentials bestowed by nature such as Quang Hanh mineral hot spring.
We are trying our best to complete the second phase of the project which is next to the current 5-star onsen resort and we will continue to invest and add more service items such as a public hot spring area, therapeutic hospitals that give priority to traditional natural therapies and a high-end hotel managed by the world's leading hotel management group to serve the high-end customer segment.
In the future, once completed, a wide variety of items in Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh project will bring visitors the most diverse and comprehensive experience options, satisfying each individual demand. The project will step by step make Quang Ninh a leading resort and health care destination in the region as well as in the world, contributing to the elimination of seasonal tourism weaknesses that have hindered local development for many years.