Last year was one of the brightest years on record for Vietnam's hotels, with the number of domestic and foreign tourists reaching a new high, according to results of a survey released on June 8 by the auditing and consulting firm Grant Thornton Vietnam.

The annual Vietnam Hotel Survey 2011, which studied hotels and resorts of three-to five-star standards in the country, said this excellent performance contributed to an overall increase in room and occupancy rates.

Matthew Lourey, advisory services director at Grant Thornton Vietnam , noted: "2010 was a landmark year for the Vietnamese hospitality and tourism sector due to the strong recovery from the global financial crisis. As a result, we saw overall average room rates, occupancy rates and profits steadily increase during the year."

The number of international arrivals increased year-on-year, by 34.8 percent, leading to a rise in room rates to an average of 83.30 USD per night, or 6.8 percent increase. The average occupancy rates for hotels in Vietnam increased in 2010 by 1.9 percent to around 60 percent.

Ken Atkinson, managing partner at Grant Thornton, believed that 2011 would continue where 2010 left off with continued growth and improvement in rates and occupancy. When the data contained in the survey report was dissected into star rankings, the most notable was the good news for four- and five-star hotels which increased their occupancy rates by 5.3 and 5 percent.

Disappointingly, 3-star hotels' occupancy rates fell by an average of 1.6 percent. The change in these figures demonstrates a shift in overall demand by customers towards a higher quality of hotels.

Travellers are selecting their hotels according to facilities and services rather than price alone.

An increase of average room rates overall in 2010 was reflected in the increase in RevPAR (revenue per available room), the measure in the hotel industry that indicates how well the hotels filled their available rooms (regardless of price) in both the high and low seasons.

RevPAR across the industry showed an overall rise from 44.63 to 49.76 USD in 2010.

Among the three categories, four-star hotels accounted for the largest increase, at 15 percent compared with 2009. Meanwhile, three-star hotels increased RevPAR by a more modest 5.8 percent, and five-star hotels improved by 10.3 percent.

This year, Grant Thornton also studied hotel expansion plans over the next two years and the percentage of hotels conducting the Customer Satisfaction Survey in 2010./.