My children and I recently had the pleasure of staying at the luxurious Residences at the Intercontinental Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We were met with a personalised greeting amid fresh fruit, sweets, and delicacies upon entering the magnificent, opulent suite. This IHG resort is modern and sleek – a favourite for discerning travellers as it is regarded as one of the city’s finest hotels.

Treats prepared in our apartment at Residences Intercontinental Saigon

The Intercontinental Saigon has two aspects – the regular hotel and the Residences, which are popular for medium to long-term residents as well as short-term stays. The Residences are ideal for families due to their spaciousness and self-contained facilities.

The Residences include luxury privileges such as private access, 24-room service, a laundry service, a private pool and fitness centre, and very spacious, self-serviced rooms.

We stayed in a two-bedroom suite, which was a massive 129-square-metre luxury apartment. It had a spacious living area, a fully self-contained kitchen and a separate laundry cavity, two bathrooms, and two massive bedrooms with large twin beds and the king suite included a lavish ensuite bathroom with a standalone bath, separate shower, and separate toilet.

The main bathroom was down the hall. Storage was plentiful. The décor was modern and sleek with up-to-the-minute mod cons, including a large TV and excellent sound system. The apartment felt very private and offered towering views over the bustling Ho Chi Minh City. Some rooms offered river or cathedral views.

Set in the bustling business centre or District 1, the location was ideal. We had a 7-minute taxi ride to the War Museum, which is a confronting but highly informative depiction of the Vietnam War. The Cathedral and Reunification Palace are also within close proximity.

Basilico Italian Restaurant

The hotel houses three restaurants. Basilico is an Italian restaurant that serves an extensive menu of authentic, Italian food (the fettuccine con fungi e pancetta was delectable). Yu Chu is the hotel’s signature Chinese restaurant which serves Cantonese and Peking cuisine and buffet dim sum. Market 39 is the hotel’s buffet restaurant. The breakfast buffet could satisfy any palate with pancakes, waffles and omelettes created on demand, fresh fruit and a multitude of fresh juices, and a delicious variety of Asian and Western hot dishes.

The Intercontinental Saigon Hotel can meet travellers’ needs and budgets through a variety of accommodation options including the Classic range, Club Intercontinental rooms, and the Suites Collection. While the suites are extremely luxurious, all of the room types are immaculate, spacious, modern, tastefully decorated, and very suitable for families.

The Intercontinental Saigon is a favourite choice for all types of travellers due to its style, luxury, elegant style, excellent location and top-notch facilities. It has two pools – one for the general hotel and an exclusive pool for the Residences. There are multiple function rooms, meeting spaces, a library, a media room and a Club Lounge that offers exclusive access to a genteel space with complimentary tea, coffee, juices soft drinks, afternoon tea, and alcoholic beverages and canapes during Cocktail Hour.

Intercontinental Saigon Club Lounge
Intercontinental Saigon Club Lounge

There is also a fitness centre and spa which offers facials, body scrubs and massages.

Thousands of Australian families struggle to make ends meet as the costs of childcare continue to rise. Following a surge in demand for early childhood centres in the past five years, Australia now faces an oversupply of childcare centres, which is much worse than it sounds.

Australia now faces an oversupply of childcare centres, which is much worse than it sounds

What is the problem?

In the past five years, Australia experienced a significant increase in demand for early childhood education. Consequently, more childcare centres have begun surfacing across the country to get their slice of the pre-school pie.

According to a report by the Department of Education, vacancies in Australian childcare centres in 2018 has jumped by almost 48,000 places in three years.

There is now an oversupply of childcare facilities for the current demand resulting in high numbers of vacancies which contributes to financial losses to the childcare company and ultimately, to parents. In 2018, it costs an average of $140 a day to send a child to childcare, with prices rising to $180 a day in capital cities.

The national vice-president of ACA Nesha Hutchinson says, “There’s no denying the fact that prices have increased over the last 10 years, and over the last five years significantly”.

So, why is Australian childcare so expensive?

There are two primary reasons why the price of childcare in Australia is so high. One reason is the new regulations under the National Quality Framework (NQF)

To meet the NQF requirement, a childcare centre must employ a sufficient number of staff to comply with staff-to-child ratios, which for two and three-year-olds requires one staff member to five children.

The second reason for the unexpected upward pressure on childcare prices is lease costs. A childcare facility’s lease is tied to the number of spaces available at licensed centres, rather than the number of children attending. This means that vacancies increase the cost of childcare to a parent as the centre needs to pay off their lease based on classes with full enrollment.

According to the Victorian president of the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) Paul Mondo, lease costs are averaged between $2,500 and $4,000 per childcare place. For example, if a childcare centre has 50 spaces available across the age groups, the centre could face a minimum of $125,000 a year in lease costs, excluding wages, utility bills and food costs.

Family researcher and author Dr Stacey Fox says, “Australian families spend about 35% of their private income on pre-school programs in Australia”.

Where is the money going?

The exorbitant lease costs childcare centres are charged soaks up a large amount of the total income available to childcare centre, while staff wages are put on the backburner.

Ben Phillips, a principal researcher at the ANU’s Centre for Social Research and Methods says, “typical (childcare) wages would be between $40,000 and $50,000 (per annum)”.

Childcare prices have skyrocketed while staff wages remain below the national average, presenting little opportunity for career progression. Something has to change to allow for the affordability of childcare to all families.

Read next week’s segment of The Childcare Chronicles to see what the major political parties have proposed for the future of Australian childcare and how it will affect Australia’s parents.