Hawaii has Waikiki
Ibiza has Ibiza Town
Bali has Kuta
Phuket has Patong
Koh Samui has Chaweng
Penang has Georgetown
Singapore has Orchard Road – Marina Bay stretch
Bintan will have Lagoi Bay
Phu Quoc has ______ or will it be destined to be a collection of hotels and golf courses?
- There are not many sizable islands off the Asia continent that can make it to international scale tourism destinations. Many are already developed. Among the last few opportunities is Phu Quoc.
- An international destination is not just a collection of hotels. Large destinations drawing millions in arrivals are successful because they offer variety – a wide choice of hotels, restaurants, entertainment and simply things to do and see. Its an entire tourism eco-system. And resort towns are at the heart of this eco-system!
Let’s take a broad look at some of the circumstances surrounding Phu Quoc.
- Central government backing & management: Vietnamese central government has acknowledged the importance of Phu Quoc and has proposed to directly administer the island. See here.
- International Accessibility: Phu Quoc International Airport, designed by CPG Consultants, is designated as one of the 6 international airports in Vietnam after Hanoi, Ho Chih Minh, Danang, Cam Ranh and recently Hai Phong. The airport with a 2.65 million passenger capacity will be operational from the end of 2012. See here.
- Power Supply: contract awarded for undersea power cable to supply Phu Quoc from mainland Vietnam. See here.
- Population Center of Gravity: Coupled with a very simplistic view on population geography does Phu Quoc’s long term prospects seem a little more interesting? See here.
- Located in the Gulf of Thailand where the relative calmer waters and less harsh weather conditions make it feasible as a year round destination.
- Hospitable culture.
- Destination development capabilities: Are the capabilities in place to develop a world class destination and coastal resort town – not just the physical development but also the on-going management?
- Who is responsible for initiating the development of an island resort town core? In most cases, the task falls on government. In exceptional cases, like Bintan Resorts, its the private sector.
- Master planning to expedite the destination development process: Except for the fishing town at Duong Dong, Phu Quoc is essentially a greenfield location. If left to organic growth Phu Quoc can easily take half a century and still may not reach full potential. A master planned resort town can be the seed which lays the foundation for follow on development to take place on the rest of the island – a hub and spoke approach. This can potentially enhance the pace of destination development where infrastructure is designed to standards and put in place, land lots are clearly defined and zoned, titles are clear and development risk is reduced.
- Master planning to incorporate environmentally more sustainable practices: Opportunity to develop an environmentally more sustainable destination and avoid challenges faced by incumbents Bali and Phuket. See here.
- Attracting visitors looking for an alternative to Bali and Phuket: Re-routing tourism traffic that’s looking for an alternative to established destinations as well as providing another island choice for the increasing number of global travelers.
- Appropriate Size: In the same ball park land area as Singapore, Phuket, Bali, Penang, Langkawi, Ibiza, Oahu (Hawaii) and Bintan having sufficient space for both tourism development as well as to house a population to service the tourism industry.
- Existing destinations getting their planning and environment ‘house’ in order.
- New destinations such as Koh Rong in Cambodia, the Mergui islands off Myanmar and even Nusa Tenggara (Lombok) are suddenly given development priority.
- Will the development of the island be biased toward speculative resort projects? While these projects are an important element in overall destination development, focusing on these alone will detract from a multi-faceted destination.
Phu Quoc is certainly not the last sizeable island located off continental Asia – there’re the Mergui Islands (Myanmar), Koh Rong (Cambodia), Ko Chang (Thailand), Anambas and Natuna (Indonesia) a little further off. But unlike the other locations its got four key factors going for it: (1) central government backing, (2) direct international accessibility, (3) overall demand for island destinations as evidenced by the arrival growth in Bali and Phuket, and (4) its nicely located between developing population heavy weights China and India.
However, over and above the strengths and opportunities available one question that Phu Quoc needs to ask is: Can it seize the opportunity to develop into a comprehensive world class destination with an iconic resort hub that can eventually rival or even surpass the regional competition? Not as a collection of hotels, villas, golf courses and gaming locations but a destination that takes into consideration the entire tourism eco-system.
What do you think?
Phu Quoc International Airport