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Phu Quoc seeks to become Vietnam’s first island city

If you like to dive into reefs, kayak in bays, hire a motorbike to explore, or just lounge on a beach, Phu Quoc Island is what you are looking for.

Visitors to Dinh Cau Rock on Phu Quoc Island, Kien Giang Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Le Huy Hai

Blessed with white sand, turquoise beaches and balmy weather almost all year round, with two-thirds covered in tropical forests, Phu Quoc, nicknamed "pearl island", is a holiday-goers’ paradise.

The island district in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang has become an international beach holiday, eco-tourism and entertainment destination after the local government began an ambitious plan to develop it into an island city, a unique concept in Vietnam.

Phu Quoc is the largest island in the country at some 590,, almost the same size as city-state Singapore. 

It is known for white-sand beaches and resorts, most of which are located along its palm-lined south-western coast. 

More than half of the island is part of the Phu Quoc National Park, which has mountains, dense tropical jungle, hiking trails, and wildlife.

Duong Dong is the largest town, with day and night markets selling handicrafts, fish and all kinds of other items.

Pham Van Nghiep, vice-chairman of the Phu Quoc Island District People’s Committee, said: “What attracts tourists most are the island’s wild beaches, its warm weather which allows them to bathe in the sea almost all year round, and its diverse landscapes from mountain to forest to sea.”

Since the island was connected to the national power grid and a policy that allows foreigners a visa-free stay was adopted in 2014, foreigners have been flocking to it.

Apart from its natural beauty, Phu Quoc Island also attracts visitors with its luxury resorts, golf courses, an animal safari, and casinos.

It expects to have 12,000 five-star hotel rooms by the end of this year and become a leading tourism resort city in Southeast Asia.

Phu Quoc is close to most of Southeast Asia and part of international freight routes, and less than two hours by air from many capitals in the neighbourhood.

It has had an international airport since 2012 and travellers who fly directly to the island can enjoy a 30-day visa-free stay. International airlines operate both commercial and charter flights to the island.

Phu Quoc International Airport.  — VNS Photo Nhat Ha

Draft proposal

Kien Giang authorities are collecting public feedback on a draft proposal to convert the island district of Phu Quoc into a city.

Phu Quoc City will have a population of more than 177,500; two wards, Duong Dong and An Thoi; and six communes, Ham Ninh, Duong To, Ganh Dau, Bai Thom, Cua Duong, and Cua Can.

Pham Van Nghiep, vice-chairman of the Phu Quoc Island District People’s Committee, said feedback could be sent to the portals of Phu Quoc District and Kien Giang Province at and over the next 30 days.

The province is planning to submit the proposal to the National Assembly for approval.

If approved, Phu Quoc will become the first island city in Vietnam.

“The island district has experienced tremendous economic and social growth and urbanisation,” Nghiep said.

Phu Quoc Island. — VNS Photo Nhat Ha

But it is facing issues related to its growing population, education, healthcare, trade, tourism, and safety and security, and becoming a city would enable Phu Quoc to address these issues, he said.

“The establishment of a city will play an important role in asserting the country’s sovereignty over its waters and islands.”

In 2018 the government allowed Kien Giang to hire a foreign consultant to draft a master plan to develop the island into a special administrative and economic zone.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently resumed the 30-day visa exemption for foreigners visiting the island effective from July 1.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has identified Phu Quoc as the optimal place to revive international tourism after the pandemic is contained in the country.

According to the ministry, the task of opening up the island has been handed to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism and Vietnam Tourism Association.

Conditions will possibly apply, like PCR swab tests being carried out at the island’s international airport and visitors requiring to undergo 14 days’ quarantine. 

Fish market on Phu Quoc Island. — VNS Photo Nhat Ha


Under a master plan to develop Phu Quoc into a special administrative economic zone, many incentives have been offered to investors to help the island achieve its full potential.

Phu Quoc will have the best mechanisms and incentives in the whole country, according to provincial authorities.

Its corporate and personal income taxes are the lowest in the country, land rents are waived for the first four years and cut by 50 per cent for the next nine.

The island is seeking approval to offer 99-year land leases to investors.

These incentives have drawn large investments from both local and international firms. 

Phu Quoc is set to become one of the country’s three special economic administrative zones along with Van Don in the northern province of Quang Ninh and Bac Van Phong in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa. 

There are 304 investment projects on Phu Quoc worth VND361.054 trillion (US$15.55 million), according to the Kien Giang Provincial People’s Committee.

Of them, 215 are in tourism, 23 in urban development and eight each in agriculture and forestry, it said. 

Phu Quoc welcomed more than five million visitors last year, up 30 per cent from 2018, including 541,600 foreigners.  VNS

Bo Xuan Hiep

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