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About the author

Caravelle HotelSince early 2007, John Gardner has been general manager of the Caravelle. A Kiwi from Christchurch, his career includes years of general management in China, as well as stints in Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore and Australia. Saigon is his best post yet.

Dispatching a mob to Saigon’s Opera House

Post by John Gardner, General Manager, the Caravelle Hotel

In Hotel, Travel 

 | On 18-06-2012

Raising awareness about the need to be environmentally sensitive is not easy. We all know, on one level, that we shouldn’t litter, shouldn’t pollute, should conserve, should recycle and so on, but it’s hard to generate awareness for that message.

One of the most famous game-changers in the history of environmental stewardship comes from the United States where the Crying Indian television commercial in the early 1970s proved to be a major watershed, at least in the United States. Before that, Americans were heedless about littering. Today, they’re very sensitive.

It only takes a generation to make such changes, and we in Vietnam are embarked upon these changes now. That’s why we at the Caravelle Hotel are enthusiastic supporters of World Environment Day. Last year, we dispatched a huge team of hotel employees to clean up the Opera House. And this year, we decided to do it again.

But how, we wondered, could we attract even more attention to the need to be more sensitive, cleaner and greener. A team of hotel employees scrubbing the steps of Opera House would attract some attention, but we wanted to attract more attention, a lot of attention. So, we decided to bust a few moves.

How so? With a flashmob, that seemingly impromptu dance phenomenon that’s swept shopping malls around the world, surprising shoppers and attracting attention to all sorts of causes.

Flashmob dance in front of the Opera House

We hired some professional dancers to start, and then we started training nearly a hundred members of the hotel staff. We trained and trained and trained, hour upon hour. In the beginning, watching my staff bear down on this choreography, I thought to myself, ‘This is never going to happen.’

But gradually, enthusiastically, we came together. On June 3, we put our plan in place. We donned green shirts, advertising the clean-up efforts, and trooped over to the Opera House, as if only to pick up trash and scrub the steps.

Then, seemingly moved by the spirit of the day, one of our trainers stepped out onto the apron of one of this city’s most famous landmarks, and he started dancing. A few more ‘cleaners’ joined him, and then dozens of us from the Caravelle took to the apron of that building and shimmied to the beat of Black Eyed Peas’ “Time of My Life” and Thao Trang’s “Feel the Life”.

The flashmob danced for nearly four minutes, attracting a great crowd, some of whom reciprocated with a few moves of their own. You can see the video of this event here. We’ve got more than 1,000 views on this mob so far. It hasn’t gone viral (yet!) and we’re not going to move public opinion the way the Crying Indian did, but we had a ton of fun. We got a whole bunch of people focused on World Environment Day. And, in some small way, we’re helping to make a difference.