Phu Quoc International Airport, off the southern Vietnamese province of Kien Giang, must be expanded, as it may become overloaded earlier than expected, the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) said.
The ACV is thus seeking in-principle approval from the Ministry of Transport for a VND1 trillion (US$45.93 million) project to enlarge the area and increase the capacity of the terminal, which has helped bring more international and domestic tourists to the famed resort island since its inauguration in 2012.
The airport has a design capacity of serving 2.6 million passengers a year, which is expected to be reached in 2017, three years earlier than planned.
The number of visitors to the island via the airport has expanded at a pace of 28 to 48 percent annually over the last three years, according to the ACV.
The ACV thus suggested expanding the area of the airport from 24,325 square meters to 36,167 square meters, and increasing its capacity to four million passengers per annum.
The CPG-PAE design consulting firm, a Singaporean-U.S. consortium which designed Phu Quoc International Airport, will continue working on the expansion.
The company is slated to submit their design report for approval in September, whereas construction could begin in March next year. The expansion is expected to be completed in April 2017.
The Phu Quoc airport was developed by the ACV, with 100 percent of investment provided by the private sector.
Vietnamese Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang has thus proposed transferring the commercial operation rights of the facility to private businesses as a pilot project, so that other airports across the country can follow suit.
Three Vietnamese investors, including realty giant Vingroup, multifaceted conglomerate T&T and Imex Pan-Pacific have shown interest in acquiring the rights to operate the Phu Quoc airport.
Phu Quoc is now connected to big Vietnamese cities including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang, and international destinations such as Cambodia and Singapore.
Early last year, there were also weekly flights bringing Russian tourists to the Vietnamese island, but the service was suspended in January 2015 due to the troubled economy in Russia.
A South Korean airline last year unveiled plans to offer service between Incheon and Phu Quoc.
Phu Quoc, which has been granted an exclusive mechanism for development under a government decision, is now a magnet for realty and tourism investors thanks to recent heavy investment in infrastructure upgrades.
The Phu Quoc administration has so far granted investment licenses for 164 projects, 21 of which are foreign-invested, whose developers collectively pledge to pump VND168.93 trillion ($7.76 billion) into the island.
Twenty-three of the licensed projects, with a total investment of VND25.81 trillion ($1.19 billion), have become operational, whereas 14 others, worth a combined VND11.38 trillion ($522.74 million), are under construction. The remaining investors are completing investment procedures.
The infrastructure on Phu Quoc is constantly improved, according to Le Van Thi, chairman of the Kien Giang administration.
The international airport plus the improved infrastructure have enabled the island’s tourist arrival numbers to rise 30 to 40 percent per year since late 2013.
Phu Quoc now receives around 6,000 visitors on a daily basis.