New tropical island destination in Vietnam


A new tropical island destination is emerging in Asia, but rather than offering itself as a glittering international playground, the intention is to retain the island’s charm as a rural retreat and natural habitat.

Phu Quoc is located off the southwest coast of Vietnam and is the country’s largest island.

Within the past few years, tourism has been increasing, with most visitors arriving via Ho Chi Minh City at Phu Quoc’s modest Duong Dong airport. The Vietnamese government is now going ahead to expand Duong Dong and allow international flights, and projections are that the current high of 77,000 visitors a year will have grown to 2 million by 2020.

As a consequence, Vietnamese and overseas investors are buying up land and opening hotels, restaurants, and dive shops, although the government is determined that the rural peace of the island will be retained. Conservation measures such as Phu Quoc National Park are being implemented, and eco-tourism will be one of the main elements of future marketing.

“Most people visiting Phu Quoc are coming here for the unspoiled beaches, the wild interior, the diving and snorkeling, and the sense of a rural and fishing community still living life the same way it has been lived for generations,” said Mr. Joan Casadevall del Campo, general manager of Chen Sea Resort & Spa Phu Quoc, a resort hotel that is owned by Vietnamese interests but is managed by Centara Hotels & Resorts of Thailand, under its Centara Boutique Collection brand.

“Many say that the island is similar to the way that Thailand’s Koh Samui and Koh Chang used to be in the 1980s, and these days there are a lot of international travelers who wish to experience that sense of nature and heritage, but to do some from a hotel base that offers all the modern comforts and conveniences.”

Chen Sea Resort, set in a sandy bay on the west side of the island only 15 minutes away from the airport, is an example of the kind of tourism development that is done with minimal disruption to the surroundings.

The resort was built after a long and thorough study in order to be integrated and to respect the natural environment of the bay and its surrounding coastal zone. It is a small development with only 36 villas. Of these, 12 of them started their existence as traditional wooden houses in the Vietnamese seaport of Hoi An and were moved down to the island where they have been rebuilt as luxury accommodation with the choice of their own private Jacuzzi or swimming pool.

“These traditional villas have been generating great interest,” said Mr. Joan Casadevall del Campo, “Visitors love the idea of staying in what was once a traditional home, and, of course, the buildings blend in perfectly with their beach and garden surroundings.”

Mr. Joan added that the resort’s main restaurant, Il Ristorante, specializes in offering local seafood and in sourcing much of its fruit and vegetables from local suppliers.

“We believe very much in supporting the local economy, and in addition to buying many of our supplies locally, we are also, of course, a significant employer.”

Changes are going to come to Phu Quoc, that is for sure, but everyone understands the reason people are visiting the island, and the authorities are determined to retain its traditional atmosphere.

Centara Hotels & Resorts is Thailand’s largest operator of hotels, with 44 deluxe and first-class properties covering all the major tourist destinations in the kingdom. A further 13 resorts in the Maldives, Indian Himalayas, Philippines, Vietnam, Bali Indonesia, and Mauritius Indian Ocean, brings the present total to 57 properties. Brands and properties within Centara ensure that specific categories such as couples, families, individuals, and meetings and incentives groups will all find a hotel or resort that is appropriate to their needs. Centara operates 19 branches of Spa Cenvaree, one of Thailand’s most luxurious and innovative spa brands, and the company’s Kids’ Club is available at all the family-friendly resorts to ensure that the youngsters and teens are taken care of. Centara Hotels & Resorts also operates two state-of-the-art convention centers in Bangkok, and one in Udon Thani in northeastern Thailand.

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