Advancing connectivity to elevate Phu Quoc into an exceptional international destination.17/08/2023
The comprehensive master plan for Phu Quoc city, Kien Giang province, until 2040 defines the objective of developing Phu Quoc into an extraordinary island coastal urban area.
Phu Quoc (Kien Giang) boasts a unique natural landscape and a strategic location, being close to major cities in Southeast Asia, has rapidly become one of the fastest-growing destinations in Vietnam.
The Tourism industry is oriented as a significant economic activity in Phu Quoc and is gradually developing. However, this process faces challenges in constructing an international destination image, while the region still experiences limitations in transportation connectivity and lacks products with strong local identity.
According to tourism experts, since late 2012, infrastructure upgrades and expanded flight routes to Phu Quoc have accelerated the formation of tourism activities and the development of resort real estate in the region.
Currently, the lodging sector in Phu Quoc offers around 25,000 rooms, mostly operated by small local businesses; among them, the number of rooms in the luxury and upscale segment accounts for about 15% of the total supply.
The total accommodation supply in Phu Quoc is only about 27% compared to Phuket (Thailand) and 31% compared to Bali (Indonesia).
Before COVID-19, domestic tourists accounted for more than 85% of the total visitors to Phu Quoc. In the context of the slow recovery of the international tourist market, domestic tourists have played a crucial role in the local tourism industry’s recovery process, with a total of 5.1 million visitors, equivalent to the 2019 level.
International tourist arrivals to Phu Quoc are comparatively low compared to other tourist islands in the region. Prior to the pandemic, international arrivals to Phu Quoc accounted for only about 6% of the total international arrivals to Phuket and 11% to Bali.
In comparison to other tourist destinations in Vietnam, Phu Quoc holds a competitive advantage in its policy of visa exemption for international tourists. Under this policy, tourists of all nationalities are granted visa exemption on the condition that they arrive directly in Phu Quoc and do not travel to other localities.
Leadership of the Department of Tourism in Kien Giang province stated that the long-standing visa exemption policy for international visitors has been and continues to create favorable conditions for promoting tourism and fostering the economic development of Phu Quoc, harnessing the island’s potential.
In order to attract more international tourists to visit and stay in the Pearl Island, Kiên Giang province continues to propose extending the visa exemption period to 6 months for foreigners entering directly into the coastal economic zone of Phu Quoc or arriving here from other international border gates within the Vietnamese territory (by air), transiting through those border gates before proceeding to Phu Quoc.
Starting from August 15, 2023, the Electronic Visa (eVisa or EV) validity period has been extended to not exceeding 90 days and can be used for single or multiple entries. This has significantly contributed to creating ample opportunities for the development of Phu Quoc tourism, welcoming a large number of international visitors.
However, according to experts from Savills Hotels, the limited number of direct flights and flight frequencies connecting Phu Quoc to the international market are barriers that hinder the effective implementation of this policy.
In the region, Phuket and Bali enjoy an advantage in international air connectivity with a more diverse and extensive range of flight routes, including flights from major cities such as Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong (China). The daily flight frequencies to Phuket and Bali are respectively 150% and 430% higher than Phu Quoc.
Furthermore, Phuket and Bali have more frequent air connections to national transportation hubs. On average, there are about 330 weekly flights from Phuket to Bangkok and 400 flights from Bali to Jakarta, whereas Phu Quoc has approximately 160 flights to Ho Chi Minh City and 90 flights to Hanoi.
On the other hand, flights from Taiwan (China) and India to Phu Quoc are currently suspended. Phu Quoc does not have flights to Singapore – a key transportation gateway in the Asian region. This is also a disadvantage for Phu Quoc compared to Phuket and Bali.
According to Mr. Mauro Gasparotti, Director of Savills Hotels, the strong development of tourism has driven the growth of resort real estate in Phu Quoc.
However, in recent times, many investors have entered the market hastily, lacking thorough consideration in the planning and execution of their projects. Some investors merely copied existing products and overlooked the market trends and local culture, neglecting to create a distinct identity for their projects.
“While there are still many quality projects being developed, to enhance the value of the visitor experience, Phu Quoc needs to establish a focal point area, concentrating on sightseeing and exploration activities,” emphasized Mr. Mauro Gasparotti.
Furthermore, the surplus supply of certain products, such as commercial townhouses, is also a concerning issue. The situation where many commercial streets remain vacant and are not put into operation could negatively impact the tourist experience and the image of the Phu Quoc tourism industry.
The decision to approve the master plan for Phu Quoc city, Kien Giang province, until 2040 was issued by the Prime Minister in June 2022, clearly outlining the planning objectives. The plan aims to develop Phu Quoc city into an exceptional island coastal urban area; a center for tourism, resorts, and distinctive high-quality services that are attractive to both domestic and international visitors; a hub for commerce, services, and advanced technology-driven healthcare and wellness services at regional and international levels; a political-cultural center; a living space of quality and strong community bonds for the island’s residents; urban development management oriented towards green, intelligent growth, energy efficiency, climate adaptation, and resource provision for investment and development.
The socio-economic development strategy for the 2021-2025 period of Kien Giang province sets the objective of upgrading Phu Quoc city to attain the status of a first-tier urban area by 2025, becoming a national and international island beach resort city.
As the first island city of Vietnam, with a projected population of 550,000 by 2030, three times its current population, Phu Quoc is anticipated to become a new economic and financial center for the region and the world in the future.
Based on the reality, many experts believe that the current infrastructure development has not been able to keep up with the pace of the rapid growth in resort real estate activities in Phu Quoc.
In addition, the projects currently being implemented individually have not generated the necessary synergy to form a continuous tourism ecosystem. This is creating several challenges in terms of development and promoting local business activities.
Mr. Mauro Gasparotti notes that in order to maintain its inherent appeal and establish a harmonious ecosystem that combines local identity and tourism activities, Phu Quoc needs to pay special attention to sustainable factors and carefully consider cultural characteristics and community environment from the planning stage.
Furthermore, to become a competitive destination on the global tourism map, Phu Quoc needs to improve transportation connectivity, infrastructure, and have a more effective communication and promotional strategy.
This process requires coordination among local authorities, organizations, and businesses within the industry to drive the sustainable development of Phu Quoc.