Phu Quoc, a rising star in Asian luxury tourism

By Phat Dat   May 26, 2019 | 08:00 pm PT
Vietnam’s largest island, Phu Quoc, was once a rather sleepy, low-key destination.

But in the last couple of years it has become one of Asia’s most talked about destinations, especially for luxury tourism.

At the turn of the 21st century Phu Quoc, blessed with stunning beaches and an attractive year-round climate, was an undeveloped tropical island with little tourism.

But even then many tourism observers believed it had the potential to one day compete with the likes of Indonesia’s Bali and Thailand’s Phuket.

The island would develop rather slowly for the next 10 years and remain associated with simple beachside pleasures such as eating fresh seafood, snorkelling or just flopping on an otherwise empty beach.

Most visitors stayed for just two days before flying back to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi - the island then had no direct flights from overseas.

Roads to Duong Dong, the capital of Phu Quoc, were mostly of red clay and full of potholes, the first clue for visitors that tourism in Phu Quoc tourism had yet to fulfill its potential.

There were very few high-end beach resorts or five-star hotels, and in general, tourist infrastructure and services in Phu Quoc were not good enough to attract local or foreign visitors.

In 2010 the island received only 239,000 visitors. A new Phu Quoc International Airport, opening in 2012, helped boost arrivals.

Phú Quốc Island becoming international tourism magnet.

Phu Quoc Island becoming international tourism magnet.

In 2015 some 850,000 visitors came to the ‘Pearl Island’, a significant jump from 2010, but still far below potential.

In the past three years, however, the island has started to see explosive, exponential growth. Nowadays more visitors come in one month than came in the whole of 2010. For example, nearly 340,000 visitors came in June last year, and over 407,000 in July.

A master plan for Phu Quoc Island expected two to three million tourists a year by 2020. But the milestone of three million a year was surpassed in 2017.

Strategic vision takes hold

Much of this success can be attributed to the fact that Phu Quoc had started to attract more strategic investors who were directing major investment intotourism infrastructureand services.

In fact, thanks to one five-star resort in particular, the island has already become a leading destinationfor luxury holidays for billionaires and A-list celebrities across Asia.

Named the World's Leading Luxury Island Resort & Villas in 2018 after opening in 2016, JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, designed by the king of exotic luxury resorts, Bill Bensley, is on a par with what luxury tourists can expect at the world’s most exclusive destinations.

Located on the southern cape of Phu Quoc, the utterly unique JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bayhas been lauded for its fantastic design, superlative services and heavenly setting.

After it opened, the island was once again tipped to become one of Southeast Asia’s leading beach destinations.

The island has also received a huge profile boost from the on-the-water villas at the Premier Village Phu Quoc Resortsituated right at the tip of Ong Doi Cape, whichopened in April 2018.

The Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park, a state-of-the-art amusement complex, has also helped put Phu Quoc on the map, especially because of how you get there - by taking a breathtaking ride on the world’s longest over-sea cable car built in February 2018.

Hon Thom islet.

Hon Thom Islet.

Many more ambitious projects such as Sun Premier Village Kem Beach Resort, Sun Premier Village The Eden Bay, Sun Premier Village Primavera are on the cards, paving the way for Vietnam’s largest island to finally establish itself as one of the world’s leadingdestinations for luxury travel and compete with the likes of Phuket and Bali, perhaps even the Maldives.

A successful formula for tourism growth

Figures from the Department of Tourism of Kien Giang Province, home to Phu Quoc, show that in 2018 more than four million tourists visited the island, a 36 percent increase from 2017.

In 2019 the island is expected to post record numbers again. Investors are certainly banking on it to sustain this exponential growth.

As of last year 248 tourism projects with a total investment of VND335.45 trillion ($14.32 billion) had received investment licenses on the island.

Visitors can see Phu Quoc island from the cable car.

Visitors can see Phu Quoc island from the cable car.

"The major resorts have contributed to developing Phu Quoc into a large and modern centerof tourism," Le Cong Nang, head of marketing and communication at Vietrantour Tourism Company, said.

"The opening of JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay coincided with a surge in international tourist arrivals on the island. It is expected that when a series of billion-dollar projects are completed, Phu Quoc will soon meet the target of receiving five million tourists a year."

Nguyen Van Tuan, a former director general of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), is in full agreement with this analysis and projection.

"The most prominent factor behind these accomplishments has been the large-scale projects and high-quality, attractive tourism products that have drawn investments from strategic investors and top tourism businesses such as Sun Group and Vingroup.

"Consequently, these investment projects have contributed to improving infrastructure and accommodation and creating luxury tourism products that can gradually help shape the image and brand of Vietnam tourism as well as increase the attractiveness of tourist destinations."

With this successful formula working like a charm, and more major high-end developments in the pipeline, Phu Quoc finally looks set to fulfill its destiny as one oftheworld’s most attractive destinations.

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