Phu Quoc (Kien Giang) has often been listed in the top famous tourist attractions and island destinations in Vietnam. However, the island is gradually losing its attractiveness for many reasons.
Phu Quoc was once among the top 3 most popular destinations for domestic tourists according to the Q4/2022 survey of Outbox. But in Q1/2023, the island only ranked 10th in the list of domestic destinations chosen by Vietnamese tourists. Most recently, during the 5-day holiday, although being expected, Phu Quoc just received more than 112,000 visitors, down 11.5% over the same period last year. Total revenue from tourism reached about VND 132 billion, down 24% over the same period. Phu Quoc loses its position because of the lack of some important factors affecting tourists’ travel decisions.
Lately, survey results from Outbox’s Vietnam Travel Market Tracker in Q1 2023 have shown the factors affecting the decision to choose a domestic destination of Vietnamese tourists, including budget, time, variety of activities, trendy destination, and information about the destination. What are the strengths of Phu Quoc and why is it increasingly losing its beautiful image?
Strengths making Phu Quoc popular
According to a report of the Department of Tourism, in 2022, Phu Quoc welcomed more than 4.7 million visitors, up 25% compared to the target.
Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam, and also the first island of the country to become an island city (from 2021). Phu Quoc includes dozens of large and small islands. It has 150 km of coastline, 14 beautiful beaches, mild climate, diverse coral reefs, rich marine life, and more.
Phu Quoc was honored in many magazines such as Travel+Leisure, TIME, Conde Nast Traveler,… and won prestigious awards in the tourism industry such as “World’s Leading Nature Island Destination” award at the World Travel Awards 2022,… Reputation from prestigious magazines and awards has contributed significantly to the island’s fame.
Besides, Phu Quoc also attracts many large corporations (Marriott, Sun Group, Vingroup,…) to invest in luxury and high-class resort, accommodation and entertainment services. Unique projects, the most recent being the Kiss Bridge, are also invested in construction.
Reasonable travel time
Easy accessibility is also a strength of Phu Quoc. Visitors can come here by sea speed boats or airplanes. Currently, there are quite a number of direct flights connecting Phu Quoc with major domestic and international cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Singapore, Seoul, Bangkok,… in a not too long travel time.
Nevertheless, in recent months, Phu Quoc destination image is increasingly unattractive. Issues such as cost, variety of activities and information about the destination have greatly affected the attractiveness of this destination.
Why is the competitiveness of Phu Quoc tourism decreasing?
Regardless of the situation or the time, the cost of the trip is always one of the most important factors for most travelers.
Recently, the price of airfare is considered by many to be one of the biggest barriers to Phu Quoc tourism. Sometimes, the return ticket price here was even higher than the cost of a whole trip abroad. As recorded from early to mid-April, round-trip airfares between Hanoi and Phu Quoc ranged from 6 to 10 million VND, higher than the total budget for an overseas trip like Thailand or Malaysia. The Ho Chi Minh City – Phu Quoc route used to cost over 4 million dong. It directly led to a decrease in hotel occupancy as well as an increase in cancellation rates due to high travel costs. About 10 days before the May Day holiday, the airfare was down by about 20-40%, but the situation was still not much better when the majority of tourists had booked the tour in advance and Phu Quoc had not been their plans at that time.
In addition, food costs are also considered expensive in Phu Quoc, sometimes ranging from 700,000 to 2,000,000 VND. Despite a huge seafood source, the price here is even higher than in big cities like Saigon or Hanoi. Some guests complained that instead of fresh seafood, they were served frozen. Many visitors feel being “tricked” because the price is not worth the value and quality of the product. The main reasons given for this are the high cost of renting business premises, many imported ingredients from the mainland, or the cost of pimps.
With a too high budget for the entire trip, Phu Quoc gradually is no longer among the top choice of Vietnamese tourists as before.
Diversity of activities
Visiting Phu Quoc, tourists often mention many attractive water activities such as diving to see coral reefs, walking under the sea, visiting the island by boat,… or amusement parks, and national parks. However, the price of many activities is also quite high, it can be up to 1,500,000 VND/person/turn. It is enough to make many Vietnamese tourists hesitate to experience it.
Nowadays, in the travel itinerary, in addition to leisure activities and new experiences, many tourists are interested in learning about and connecting with the local community. That’s why activities associated with local values should also be focused more in Phu Quoc. This both catches the trend and increases the diversity of activities, such as visiting fish sauce craft villages, exploring the lives of fishermen, etc. Moreover, these activities can support local people. This is one aspect of sustainability, a trend that has emerged in the wake of the pandemic.
Lack of official and reliable information
Phu Quoc has not yet built a reputable official channel, providing diverse information for visitors before going. Searching online, most recommendations are from travel agencies and online travel agencies (OTAs). Many sites do not provide detailed and transparent information, which can confuse visitors.
Phu Quoc will not lose its attractiveness soon if it’s properly exploited. It is extremely important to listen, understand and respond to tourists in order to win their heart again. First of all, it is clear that they want more reasonable trip costs, in terms of transportation, accommodation, F&B, and tourism products. Besides, to know more about their needs, it is necessary to track and analyze their behavior and psychology. Focusing on travelers will be the golden key to bring Phu Quoc tourism back to its heyday.