Besides its outstanding potential, the recent development of Phú Quốc also reveals its shortcomings. It is also a challenge for local leaders to take tourism here to a new level.
From an emerald island to a world-class tourist centre
Favoured by nature for its poetic landscapes, Phú Quốc is known as the island of pearls in the eyes of domestic and foreign tourists. With the boom in infrastructure and new destinations, Phú Quốc quickly became the top destination in Việt Nam.
In 2018, Phú Quốc welcomed 4 million visitors, of which, there were more than 543,000 international visitors. Tourism revenue reached VNĐ5.52 trillion (US$237.74 million), a year-on-year increase of 39.5 per cent. In the period of 2015 - 2018, Phú Quốc achieved a tourism growth of up to 141 per cent. This figure outperforms the central city of Đà Nẵng with only 65 per cent.
In the first seven months of 2019, the number of international visitors to Phú Quốc reached 450,000, reaching a turnover of VNĐ4.8 trillion. This figure shows that in spite of being newly invested and developed, Phú Quốc has made a great leap, gradually becoming a new tourist brand besides familiar destinations.
According to the statistics of the Department of Tourism of Kiên Giang, Phú Quốc has more than 12,000 rooms and many high-end projects are underway to meet the growing tourist demand. Along with that, important transport projects such as Phú Quốc International Airport, An Thới international seaport, North - South transport axis and roads around the island have come into operation and contributed positively in the attraction of tourists.
Facing the changes of the emerald island, at the Kiên Giang investment promotion conference in July, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc requested Phú Quốc to become a unique, world-class resort and entertainment centre. This desire is completely possible because Phú Quốc has been honoured internationally many times. CNN voted Phú Quốc as one of the best destinations in Asia, besides Seoul (the Republic of Korea), Bali (Indonesia) and Kyoto (Japan). Meanwhile, the Telegraph also had a whole article detailing what to do in Phú Quốc. This famous British newspaper has praised the charm of nature, indigenous culture and lavish hotels here.
Currently, local authorities have open policies to develop sustainable emerald islands when calling for investment, nature conservation, community tourism development as well as encouraging businesses to open more routes.
Earlier this year, the Civil Aviation Administration of Việt Nam proposed upgrading the capacity of Phú Quốc International Airport to 10 million passengers per year. This change is necessary because more and more airlines are opening flights here. In particular, Vietjet has opened four more routes to Phú Quốc and Jetstar Pacific has also opened Đà Nẵng - Phú Quốc routes to connect these two tourist destinations.
Challenges of growth
However, in any fast-growing locality, there are usually certain limitations and Phú Quốc is no exception. The flooding in Phú Quốc after the heavy rain in August can be seen as one of its problems. However, this is also a problem that is not too strange in localities with fast development speed, leading to urban overload. In addition, the drainage system in Phú Quốc is no longer suitable for the population and tourists because it was built in 2003.
According to the secretary of Phú Quốc District's Party Committee and chairman of the district's People Committee, the drainage systems will be recalculated to meet future development needs of the island. In addition, he said, the island now has a master plan. When there is a detailed plan, the authority will approve the urban development scheme to submit to the Government.
In addition to flooding, waste is also a big problem, when Phú Quốc has more than 200 tonnes of waste every day. However, Phú Quốc is about to have a plastic recycling plant thanks to its cooperation with Dutch firm UpCycling Plastic. Along with that, the local government has also launched many anti-plastic waste movements to protect the purity of the pearl island.
Recently, during a meeting with Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc in August, the leadership of Kien Giang province proposed to bring Phú Quốc district to the city, becoming the first island city in Việt Nam to overcome the limitations on construction management, construction order, investment licencing and ecological environment.
Phạm Thị Thanh, a woman living on the island, still expressed optimism in the local development. According to her, more than 10 years ago, Phú Quốc was still desolate, so people's lives were also dull, the living conditions were limited, and the conditions of deprived employment. Thanks to the tourism development, the family also has a much better life when all members have good jobs and good business opportunities. Therefore, she said when local leaders solve some problems, Phú Quốc is still a popular destination for tourists.
Thành Hưng, from Long An who came to work and set up a business in Phú Quốc for 10 years sharing his family's life has turned to a new page since arriving on the emerald island. The natural landscape still retains beauty like nowhere else, the economy on the island develops day by day making people's lives better and better.
The tourism development presents Phú Quốc with many opportunities but also many challenges. This is the time to show the vision of the local authorities so that the emerald island no longer has issues.