Bamboo Airways on Saturday received the Embraer E195 aircraft to serve on its three new routes to Côn Đảo. — Photo courtesy of Bamboo Airways
THANH HÓA — Opening more direct flights to Côn Đảo Island, a tourism hotspot off southern Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province, is an opportunity for the tourism destination, experts have said.
Võ Huy Cường, deputy head of Civil Aviation Authority of Việt Nam (CAAV) told a forum held in the central province of Thanh Hóa on Saturday that demand to visit Côn Đảo has been high for many years and is still rising. However, it has been difficult to fly to the island.
Cường said in addition to flights from HCM City or the southern city of Cần Thơ to Côn Đảo, visitors could travel by boat, but it takes at least nine hours from HCM City and four hours from Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province in calm sea conditions to reach the tourism site.
Côn Đảo Airport is located on the island and investing in lights for night operation is difficult due to weather and environmental conditions. It is not allowed to operate 24 hours a day, making flights only available during the day.
Vietnam Air Services Company (VASCO), a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines, is the only airline currently operating regular flights to the island, flying from HCM City and Cần Thơ. It can carry up to 68 passengers per flight.
Bamboo Airways will launch new direct flights from Hà Nội, Hải Phòng and Vinh to Côn Đảo from September 29.
“It is a great effort to reach a maximum of 24 visits to Côn Đảo per day. Bamboo Airways' three non-stop flights to Côn Đảo will meet the need of spiritual tourism, assist in solving problems about take-off time at Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport. It will also help serve the increasing travel demand and reduce travel time and gas consumption for connecting flights,” he added.
Đặng Tất Thắng, vice chairman cum general director of Bamboo Airways, said the company's goal since its establishment has been to connect localities with few flights.
Thắng said his first trip to the island took 12 hours as he had to fly from HCM City.
Bamboo Airways struggled to open the routes in the past as the airline had previously considered using an Airbus A319 aircraft for the flight. However, the airport's runway needed to be extended.
During a business trip, he experienced the new generation of the Embraer 195 jet and was very impressed. With the approval of the CAAV, Bamboo Airways took six months to deploy this route. The airline will use the Embraer E195 jet on the route, transporting 124 passengers each flight.
“According to statistics from the CAAV, up to 90 per cent of tourists visiting Côn Đảo are people from the northern region as the island is famous for spiritual tourism. That was why Bamboo Airways chose Hà Nội, Hải Phòng and Vinh - the three cities with the largest population in the north to open the direct flights,” he said.
Trịnh Hàng, director of the Department of Tourism of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province, said that in the past, tourists had to fly to Côn Đảo by helicopter, which was very expensive. Since the airport was built in 2004, at the peak, despite there were 26 weekend flights and 5-8 flights on weekdays, yet many tourists still complained of not being able to buy tickets.
“With the new route of Bamboo Airways, tourists from the north can travel more conveniently, without having to connect from HCM City or Cần Thơ. The locality has been trying to develop infrastructure. Currently, a lot of investors are working to provide better services to tourists. The province has also calculated a plan for sustainable tourism development and considering development but still retains the ecosystem,” Hàng said.
According to Đinh Ngọc Đức, Director of the Tourism Market Department under Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNTA), Côn Đảo’s tourism potential is enormous as the number of tourists coming to the island has increased by 400 per cent in the last few years despite the lack of flights and poor traffic infrastructure. With the three new routes, he assessed that more tourists would come thanks to the convenience.
He also expressed his wish to develop Côn Đảo sustainably, attracting visitors, but not at all costs to protect the island.
“The three new routes of Bamboo Airways together with other provinces are the starting point of the second stimulus tourism programme in the last months of the year. VNTA will accompany airlines, destinations and enterprise in the programme,” he said.
Trịnh Văn Quyết, chairman of FLC Group and Bamboo Airways, said being people doing business in the aviation and tourism sectors want to help tourism flourish again.
FLC proposed Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province and Airports Corporation of Việt Nam (ACV) approve funding to install lights at Côn Đảo Airport to allow the airport to increase flight capacity at night.
At the forum, many travel firms said they expected the tourist market to Côn Đảo to thrive thanks to the new direct flights and that they would work with Bamboo Airways to offer package tours.
In 2019, Côn Đảo welcomed nearly 400,000 tourists, up 37 per cent compared to 2018. — VNS