Vietnam News

Phu Quoc’s crossroads : better services or tourism collapse

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Phu Quoc, formerly Vietnam’s most popular paradise island, is watching tourism plummet as unaffordable air ticket prices and a lack of appeal to global travel take their toll, experts say.

Once one of the busiest tourism hotspots in southern Vietnam, the coastal nation’s largest island Phu Quoc is losing its charm to increasingly expensive air tickets, increasingly worse tourism services and a severe overcharging plague, all of which keep conscientious travelers away from the location once known as “the pearl of Vietnam.”

Statistics show that tourist visits to the island are down significantly from last year.

During the five-day Reunification Day holiday (April 39 – May 5), Phu Quoc received 112,000 visitor arrivals, down 11.5% over the same period last year, and revenues were also down 24.3% year-on-year.

During the four-day National Day (September 2) holiday, the number of Phu Quoc visitors continued to decrease to a meager total of 19,000 arrivals, down 40% from the same period last year. During one of Vietnam’s largest, longest and most celebrated holidays, the island’s room capacity was an embarrassing 27%.

Le Thi Hai Chau, general secretary of the Phu Quoc Tourism Development Investment Association, said airline price stabilization policy is one of the most practical ways to lure tourists back to the island.

Chau said the association had received “positive signals” from an airline, but she declined to name the carrier.

She said airlines should balance their business policies to achieve “stable cooperation agreements.”

She also emphasized that the government needs to play a key role, acting as a bridge for parties to move towards implementing such commitments.

During recent holidays, return air tickets from Hanoi to Phu Quoc cost up to VND8 million (US$326.83) per person, prompting many tourists to opt for overseas travel at similar or even cheaper prices.

Chau said the island was receiving less European and Chinese tourists than any point in recent memory.

Therefore, tourism businesses in Phu Quoc should diversify promotions to international tourist markets such as South Korea, India, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Either way, Vietnam’s popularity as a tourism destination is growing and while Phu Quoc has so far missed out, the island has many new opportunities in the pipeline.

A series of South Korean carriers are planning to open new routes to Phu Quoc by the end of this year.

Jeju Air plans to launch its Seoul – Phu Quoc route with seven flights a week from late this month, while Jin Air plans to open a Seoul-Phu Quoc route this December.

Korean Air will start direct flights connecting Seoul to Phu Quoc in late November because foreign experts say that regardless of Phu Quoc’s issues Vietnam remains an increasingly interesting tourism destination.

According to statistics from Korea, the number of passengers on flights between Vietnam and South Korea in the third quarter was more than double compared to the same period last year.

Dr. Nuno Ribeiro, a member of EuroCham’s tourism committee and Associate Senior Program Manager in Tourism and Hospitality at RMIT Vietnam, suggested limiting the number of tourists to Phu Quoc.

Spain’s Balearic Islands previously dealt with the same problems Phu Quoc is facing.

To solve the issues, the Spanish government decided that the island would only accommodate a certain number of hotels and tourists. Old and illegally built hotels were razed to the ground, and each tourist who visited the island had to pay a special tourism tax. And according to reliable sources, 100% of those taxes went to directly offset the negative impacts of tourism on local communities.

Phan Dinh Hue, director of Vietcircle Tourism Company, said the worldwide economic slowdown has tourists cutting spending on travel. Inn such a circumstance, of course the number of tourist arrivals on Phu Quoc are decreasing, Hue said.

Therefore, Phu Quoc should seek to lure tourists from HCMC, Mekong Delta and southern provinces who can easily visit Phu Quoc by road and high-speed boats with cheaper transportation prices.

In addition, Chau said Phu Quoc authorities should crack down on tourist scams and overcharging issues that has threatened the island’s tourism image in recent times.

Earlier, many restaurants on the resort island of Phu Quoc were criticized for paying 20-30% commission to taxi drivers who bring them customers, causing a spike in prices.

By Tu Nguyen & Xanh Le – – October 18, 2023

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