Editor’s note: Quang Kiet, a frequent visitor to Phu Quoc, has found many ‘negatives,' one of which is the mushrooming number of resorts on the ‘pearl island’ just off southern Vietnam.
I would visit Phu Quoc almost every year, thanks to the marvelous natural beauty there, particularly the beaches, and the great seafood and friendly, hospitable islanders.
But I have come back from my latest trip with mixed feelings - the joy of seeing the island’s constant development is accompanied by sadness and worry.
Visiting the Khem Beach has been an indispensable part of every one of my trips to Phu Quoc, thanks to its pure water, the soft white sand beach and the mouthwatering sardinella salad freshly cooked on the spot by locals.
However, this time I found that half of the beach had been zoned for a luxury resort, with several components busily under construction, and the other half, seemingly unattended to, full of trash.
“Don’t be fooled by those garbage piles, that other half of the beach has also been zoned,” a local told me with obvious sadness in his voice.
People will be banned from entering the rest of the beach after Reunification Day on April 30 this year, as a new construction will begin in that area, according to the islander.
But Khem is not the only beach on Phu Quoc that has been zoned for resorts. Others, like Bau and Dai beaches, are now controlled by resort developers.
While developments on Bau and Sao beaches still allow entry for tourists, the Dai beach is now only open exclusively to guests of a deluxe recreation center.
Phu Quoc is developing at a rapid pace with construction sites mushrooming across the island, mostly hotels, shopping centers and resorts.
While green and sustainable tourism development is a trend followed by many around the world, Phu Quoc tourism remains on the path of chopping down trees to build resorts, and ‘selling’ the most beautiful beaches to resort owners.
The best beaches on the island are open only to tourists who stay in those deluxe hotels or resorts – a big negative for Phu Quoc tourism.
Another disadvantage is that there is no lifeguard at almost every beach on Phu Quoc. In addition, trash that sits in piles and emits a filthy odor can be found all over the island.
An excavator works at a construction site on Phu Quoc.
On top of these negative points, prices on the ‘pearl island’ keep rising and tourists are more and more likely to be overcharged.
For instance, when we visited the Ham Ninh fishing village, an unlicensed parking lot charged each motorbike VND10,000 (US$0.45), no matter whether it was an automatic scooter or a manual motorcycle.
At the night market, a cake the size of two fingers was sold for VND5,000 ($0.22), and seafood at raft restaurants in the Rach Vem fishing village are two to three times more expensive than those in Dong Duong Town.
Moreover, tourists have to pay VND140,000 ($6.25) to hire chairs and umbrellas at Sao Beach, while street peddlers and beggars flood the area in front of the Cau Palace every afternoon.
The image of Phu Quoc as a peaceful and tranquil destination seems to be fading gradually in the eyes of visitors.
While it cannot be denied that Phu Quoc is making an increasingly bigger contribution to the local and central tourism, this famous destination appears to lack a vision of green and sustainable development.
Resources for tourism development are limited, so they should not be made use of in a way that does harm to the environment.
This is a lesson never too late to learn not only for Phu Quoc but also Vietnamese tourism as a whole.
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