By being selected as the host for the National Tourism Year 2016, the “Pearl Island’ has been offered huge opportunities to speed up its dream of becoming a tourist paradise in the Southeast region.
Special favours from the Mother Nature
Alongside its superb long stretch of sandy beaches, extended primary forests, well-known specialties such as fish sauce, pepper, cashew nuts and pearl, Phu Quoc is also blessed with huge advantages to develop tourism, not yet found in other places.
Neatly placed in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc is the largest and the only island in Vietnam which does not suffer from the impacts of storms. This brings the island very favourable conditions for tourism throughout the year.
Although its area is quite small at only about 600 kilometres square, the island has a coastline of up to 150 kilometres, helping it maximise its tourism services throughout the island.
In addition, the island is on the significant marine route in the south of Vietnam, making it easy to connect with key tourism markets in the region such as Cambodia and Thailand.
In 2006, Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve, including Phu Quoc island district, was recognised as the world’s biosphere reserve by UNESCO, helping it become a popular name on the international tourist map.
The unique factors above, plus its natural beauty, have lifted Phu Quoc to a number-one destination for visitors who are fans of ecotourism, exploration and relaxation.
Preferential policies from the Party and State
A number of sound policies have been put forward by the Party and State to bring into full play the available advantages of Phu Quoc.
The Prime Minister approved a project in 2004 to develop Phu Quoc into a big and modern centre of tourism and international trade in the Mekong River Delta region. Since its inauguration in 2012, the 900-hectare Phu Quoc International Airport has made connections through aviation between the island and Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Russia and Thailand.
The 56km Ha Tien-Phu Quoc undersea cable route, which was put into operation in 2014, has helped significantly reduce power consumption and created momentum for economic development on the island.
Phu Quoc is also offered the highest preferential system by the State to encourage both domestic and foreign investment, particularly in land deals, corporate income tax (10% instead of 28%) and personal income tax (50% off). This has attracted many strategic investors whose operations have helped develop tourism infrastructure.
The vanguard among them is Vingroup with its inauguration of Vinpearl five-star resort, which was followed by a series of major groups such as Sun Group and BIM Group with their target of a premium segment. By the end of 2015, “big names” of real estate have added 700 more five-star hotel rooms on the island. The figure is expected to reach 3,000 by 2016 and 10,000 by 2020, giving the island the biggest number of luxury rooms across the country which can accommodate between 2.1 million and 2.4 million visitors each year.
Roughly 200 projects have been granted investment licenses on the island with total capital of VND 200 trillion (US$ 8.9 billion), promising the development of the non-smoke industry.
The preferential policy on granting visa exemptions of up to 30 days on Phu Quoc for foreigners and Overseas Vietnamese, which took effect at the end of 2013, is also a “push” contributing to the increasing number of visitors to the island.
The Pearl Island welcomed 239,000 tourists in 2010, and the number tripled in 2013 as it reached 623,000. During the first nine months of 2015, Phu Quoc received 1.2 million holiday makers, reaching 115.9% of its annual target.
In recent years, the island has retained its annual tourism growth rate of over 30% and economic growth rate of around 25%. The figures are expected to increase in the near future.
Momentum for making breakthroughs
The 2016 National Tourism Year – Phu Quoc themed ‘Discovering the Southern Land’ is considered an important momentum to advertise Phu Quoc to domestic and foreign visitors, boost tourism and enhance linkages between Phu Quoc, Kien Giang province and other localities in Mekong River Delta.
According to Kien Giang provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism Tran Chi Dung, two key events of the programme – the opening and closing ceremonies – will take place in Phu Quoc instead of the province’s administrative centre.
Phu Quoc will also be the host venue to four more culture and sports events among 11 events organised by Kien Giang province. They include an international half marathon championship, a national water motorcycle competition, a national tour guide contest, and a culinary festival.
Together with the attraction of nearly 40 other events to be held throughout the programme, Kien Giang expects to reach a 40% increase in the number of visitors in 2016.
The Kien Giang province’s master plan for socio-economic development by 2020 has set a target to turn Phu Quoc into a special economic-administrative zone, an up-scale centre for ecotourism and entertainment, a considerable financial centre in the region and a significant link in the intra-transport network and international aviation.
A chain of major projects are being deployed on the island, including the expansion of Phu Quoc international airport, the construction of an entertainment complex and a cable car line linking An Thoi town in Phu Quoc district and Hon Thom island. The projects are expected to bring a spectacular makeover for Phu Quoc in the years to come.