Next Stop, Phu Quoc

Vietnam’s largest isle, is hoping to woo international tourists in the next few years.

By: By Thomas E. King


Phuquoc Resort & Spa


Used by American forces, the colonial Cay Dua Prison is an important inclusion on Vietnam War-based itineraries. // © Thomas E. KingThe Asian destinations of Bali and Phuket may be on travelers’ radar right now, but Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s largest isle, is hoping to challenge them by wooing international resort tourists in the next few years.

The recently announced plans will transform this 30-mile-long, fish-shaped island, located 75 miles south of the Vietnamese mainland, into an international-standard resort center by 2020. Additionally, a $10 billion
project — financed by groups of U.S. and Canadian investors and involving the construction and development of a considerable infrastructure — received approval from the Vietnamese prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung.

Among these planned tourism endeavors is the Saigontourist Casino-Golf Resort, which will be set over 516 acres. Incorporating a 36-hole course, a conference center, a 1,500-seat stadium and a mangrove forest ecological reserve, it is expected to be completed in five years.

An even bigger ticket item, which will be spread over 2,208 acres, is the planned $250-million Duong To International Airport. The airport is set to open in 2010.

Investors are eagerly awaiting the completion of the multi-million-dollar airport, according to James Doan Anh Phuc, chief marketing officer of Saigon Phuquoc Resort & Spa.

Top markets for the Saigon Phuquoc Resort & Spa’s 90 suites and bungalows are Sweden, France, Germany, Australia, Russia and the U.S., which ranks sixth. Doan said that a majority of U.S. visitors to the resort are Vietnamese Americans.

As the only island member of the Hanoi-based Vietnam Meeting and Incentive Club, the Saigon Phuquoc Resort & Spa also features a ballroom for 200 guests, a banquet hall for 220 diners and a 275-yard private beach for staging events.

Most of Phu Quoc’s existing 20 hotels and resorts, including the Saigon Phuquoc Resort & Spa, are located on the western coast of the island and north and south of the centrally situated, quaint island capital of Duong Dong. The domestic airport at Duong Dong is a 15-minute drive away.

The island is connected to the former Saigon with six or seven regional air services a day. You might recommend clients fly from Saigon to Phu Quoc for sand and solitude and then take the high-speed ferry back to the mainland. The new Malaysian-built, air-conditioned 170-passenger capacity vessel now linking Phu Quoc to the port of Rach Gia in 2½ hours cuts more than 4 hours off the previous slow boat journey.

Suggested Stops in Phu Quoc
Tours can be customized to suit the interests of your clients. A fish sauce factory visit seems a must for most Vietnamese Americans. A far more somber stop is the French-built Cay Dua (Coconut Tree) Prison, which was later used by American forces during the Vietnam War.

The flora-and-fauna-rich mountainous spine of the island shelters unexploited hot springs and caves. Bai Sao offers, perhaps, the island’s best arc of spotless white sand; it is the departure point for cruises to virgin dive waters and an archipelago of unexplored islets, which is a highlight for many travelers. Indeed, some 60,000 foreign tourists visited the island last year.

So, take note. With its up-and-coming resort complexes and developing transportation structure, Phu Quoc is sure to be on our radars in the very near future.