World class developments give fresh impetus to Vietnam’s tourism hotspots

By Phat Dat   February 17, 2020 | 07:00 pm PT
Across the length and breadth of Vietnam, quality real estate investments have turned localities like Da Nang, Sa Pa, Quang Ninh and Phu Quoc into tourism hotspots.

The number of foreign tourists visiting Vietnam reached an all-time high of 18 million in 2019, up 16.2 percent year-on-year.

The tourism industry also reaped an unprecedented harvest of global awards: the world's leading heritage destination award and Asia’s leading culinary destination award, for instance, at the World Travel Awards (WTA); not to mention the world’s best golf destination at the international World Golf Awards.

The growth and prestige the tourism industry has garnered have been credited to the government’s policies, including visa waivers for nationals of potentially large tourism markets, the launch of new direct flights and the development of world class resorts and entertainment facilities by major Vietnamese investors like the Sun Group.

From transit point to tourism hub

Just over 10 years ago, the central coastal city of Da Nang was a relatively unknown destination. In 2007, the whole city had less than 1,300 hotel rooms that accommodated about one million domestic and international visitors. The local airport served mostly as a place for domestic flights that tourists took to reach other, more famous destinations in central Vietnam.

The turning point came when the city government called on major investors to join hands with the municipality and rejuvenate Da Nang. Responding to that clarion call, in 2007, Sun Group began developing a project in Ba Na - once a mountain retreat for French emigrates in colonial times, but long since forgotten and considered accessible only by some intrepid travelers.

A year later, the Sun World Ba Na Hills tourism and entertainment complex opened to the public, with a cable car route ferrying travelers up from the foot of the mountain. The impact was immediate. In 2009, more than 1.3 million visitors came to Da Nang, setting a new record for arrivals. With world-class services and entertainments, a high-end resort and golf course, Ba Na Hills has continued to be a tourism magnet.

In 10 years, the resort has seen tourist numbers grow 160 times. In particular, when the iconic Golden Bridge opened in Ba Na Hills in 2018, Da Nang experienced a huge spike in arrivals. Everyone wanted to check-in on the Golden Bridge with its two god-like hands cupping the structure.


Sunshine Carnival is one of the entertainmentattractions at Ba Na Hills.

In 2014, Sun Group unveiled their second game-changing investment in Da Nang - the InterContinental Da Nang Sun Peninsula Resort on the picturesque Son Tra Peninsula. The resort was named the World’s Leading Luxury Resort by the World Travel Awards for four consecutive years, from 2014 to 2017.

In the decade following the opening of Ba Na Hills, Da Nang’s tourism growth has been the envy of many other destinations. Last year, nearly 8.7 million visitors came to Da Nang, nearly five times higher than the number in 2010; and tourism revenue reached VND30.97 trillion ($1.33 billion), 25 times higher.

Sa Pa reclaims yesteryear glory

In early 2016, the Fansipan cable car opened as part of the Sun World Fansipan Legend tourism complex in Sa Pa, drawing the attention of travelers from all over the world. Invested and developed by Sun Group, the cable car set two world records in connecting Sa Pa Town with the rooftop of Indochina, the peak of Fansipan, which soars 3,143 meters into the sky.

A truly remarkable feat of engineering, the cable car boosted Sa Pa tourism numbers immediately, but Sun Group had many more attractions to unveil, including the Muong Hoa funicular as well as a complex of Buddhist monuments that made Fansipan a spiritual destination. At the Sun World Fansipan Legend tourism complex, tourists can now learn more about the unique cultural traditions of numerous hill tribes who have lived on the mountains of the northwest for centuries.


The cable car connecting Sa Pa Town with Fansipan set two world records.

These investments have also given the northern highlands town a huge fillip. In 2013, Sa Pa only welcomed 720,000 visitors and earned revenues of VND576 billion ($24.77 million). In 2019, the number of visitors to Sa Pa had crossed 3.2 million, with revenue rising to VND9.34 trillion ($402 million), 16.2 times higher than 2013.

In 2019, when the Sun World Fansipan Legend was named Vietnam's Leading Tourist Attraction and The World's Leading Cultural Tourist Attraction at the World Travel Awards, Sa Pa had arrived as a globally-recognized destination.

Quang Ninh - giving a magical land its due

At the end of 1994, Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province was recognized by UNESCO as a world natural heritage site. But Ha Long Town and Quang Ninh Province remained undeveloped and unappealing to many tourists. For example, the Bai Chay beach in Ha Long was a shabby looking seafront. The standard of accommodation was very poor and there were no entertainment facilities.

This started to change in 2015, when Sun Group renovated Bai Chay and transformed it into a beautiful beach with white sand and shady coconut trees. A year later, they inaugurated the Sun World Halong Complex entertainment complex, which ended the long-held impression that the town was simply a day-trip destination. Tourists now started planning longer visits.


The Van Don International Airport is invested and built by Sun Group in Quang Ninh Province.

The group also displayed its investment savvy with key transport infrastructure projects that are operational now – the Van Don International Airport, the Ha Long International Cruise Port and the Ha Long - Van Don Highway. These have significantly increased access to Ha Long Town in particular and Quang Ninh Province in general.

In 2019, the total number of tourist arrivals to Quang Ninh reached 14 million, including 5.7 million foreigners; and tourism revenue was nearly VND29.49 trillion ($1.05 billion). Compare this with 2014, when the northern province welcomed 7.5 million visitors, including 2.6 million foreigners, generating VND5.5 trillion ($237 million) in tourism revenue.

Complementing an island paradise

The beauty of Phu Quoc Island has invited comparisons to the likes of Phuket (Thailand), Bali (Indonesia), Boracay (Philippines) and the Maldives. But five years ago, Phu Quoc was still off the radar for many global travelers. In 2014, the island received just 586,000 visitors, generating a turnover of around VND2.2 trillion ($94.6 million). The reality was the island lacked world class resorts to compete with other destinations.

After Phu Quoc opened its doors to hundreds of investors, including domestic corporations like Sun Group and Vingroup, tourism blossomed. Today, the island is home to the World's leading luxury resort and spa (JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay) and the World's Leading Beach Villa Resort (Premier Village Phu Quoc) and many other outstanding resorts.

Visitors can now ride on the Hon Thom cable car - the longest over-the-sea cable car route in the world - from the main island of Phu Quoc to Thom Islet to enjoy the crystal clear waters of Trao beach and play many water sports, and discover the most modern water park in Southeast Asia - Aquatopia.


JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay was named the World's leading luxury resort and spa by World Travel Awards.

The impact of these world class resorts and amenities has been immense. In 2019, the number of tourists visiting Phu Quoc reached 5.1 million, nearly nine times the number in 2014. It has become now a destination frequented by billionaires, celebrities and discerning luxury travelers.

Common factor

Analyzing how Phu Quoc Island, Sa Pa, Quang Ninh and Da Nang have all been transformed in the eyes of the world, it is evident that the introduction of world class resorts, entertainment complexes, cable car systems and other unique products has played a decisive role. Without such developments, many beautiful places in Vietnam would be confined to the sidelines of global tourism growth.

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