Phu Quoc resort tourism attracts foreign billionaires

Beautiful scenery, reasonable prices, and English language services are competitive factors that make Phu Quoc more than just a resort destination. Last week, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) analysed the factors that make Phu Quoc the billionaire’s choice for a big fat overseas Indian wedding.

The romantic scene of an Indian billionaire couple's wedding in Phu Quoc, 2019. (Photo: internet)
The romantic scene of an Indian billionaire couple's wedding in Phu Quoc, 2019. (Photo: internet)

New destination for foreign weddings

Gaurav Patil did not hesitate to recommend weddings in Vietnam to his friends in his native India.

Patil, who has lived in Vietnam for 10 years, tied the knot with his Vietnamese partner at a resort in the central coastal town of Quy Nhon in late 2019.

“Cost-wise it is much cheaper than in India for such a resort or hotel. Resorts in Vietnam are true value for money in terms of services provided for guests,” said Patil, who is originally from Madhya Pradesh in central India.

“In Phu Quoc (and similar places), all staff speak English and hence communication is not an issue.” Patil said.

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Weddings in India have a very large number of guests (Photo: internet)

Patil, who works for a food and agri-business company, said one downside was having to be more selective with the guest list, because Indian weddings are generally larger and have more guests than their Vietnamese counterparts.

His wedding in Vietnam had about 300 guests and cost about 60,000 USD. A similar ceremony in India would have had twice as many guests and cost twice as much, he estimated.

Last month, Vietnam and India held a virtual conference to promote Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s largest island, and Kerala, a southwestern India coastal state, as wedding destinations.

Phu Quoc, which literally means “fertile country”, is a mainstay in Vietnam’s efforts to revive its tourism industry, which according to official figures accounted for around 10% of the country’s GDP prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last November, the island - home to picturesque beaches, coral reefs, and waterfalls - welcomed more than 200 Koreans, who were among the first foreign tourists to visit Vietnam since the beginning of its pandemic-induced border closure that lasted for nearly two years.

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The first international delegation arrived in Phu Quoc in November 2021 following nearly 2 years of closure due to COVID-19.

Official data from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism announced that, in the over a month since reopening, the island has welcomed over 1,000 foreign tourists from countries including Thailand, Laos, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, going by official data. It is a modest intake compared to 2019, when there were 5.3 million visitors, most of whom were Vietnamese.

In the same year, the tourism industry earned 32.8 billion USD. Chinese, Koreans and Japanese were the most frequent visitors in the five years up to and including 2019, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism. In recent years, Chinese visitors alone have accounted for around a third of inbound tourists, while those from India made up less than 1%.

Lavish weddings

Phu Quoc was promoted more widely to international tourists when an Indian billionaire couple chose the location as a "super wedding" venue in 2019. Kaabia Grewal, co-founder of a luxury fashion jewellery line, and Rushang Shah, son of founder and chairman of US-based Embassy National Bank, received much fanfare for their ceremony. The event involved about 700 guests and more than 100 international performers, an affair that might be described colloquially in India as a “big fat wedding”.

The 4-day wedding took place at Vietnamese travel operator Sun Group’s five-star resort JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay.

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Representatives of Kien Giang Province attended and gave gifts to the bride and groom at the wedding of the Indian billionaire couple.

The Vietnamese ambassador to India played a part in convincing the couple to pick Phu Quoc.

Jyoti Mayal, president of the Travel Agents Association of India – the oldest association of its kind in India, who participated in the virtual conference last month, shared that weddings in India are a year-round business, adding that the destination wedding trend “could be a game-changer in promoting travel trade between the two countries”.

He said his association “would be delighted to collaborate with our counterparts and promote Vietnam as the most favourable wedding destination” thanks to its “well-developed infrastructure, beaches, and other tourist destinations”.

More support needed

Manvir Singh, managing director of Shanqh Luxury Events - a New Delhi-based wedding planner which caters to Indian couples who want to tie the knot in Vietnam, said that Phu Quoc is “a charming place for destination weddings”.

"Vietnam is starting to become popular in the Indian destination wedding space and we feel once we are through the pandemic, we will have a bright future with Vietnam,” he said.
His company, which has arranged wedding packages with Vietnamese hotels and resorts including JW Marriott Emerald Bay, Intercontinental, Novotel, and Pullman Phu Quoc, offers customer services which are tailor-made for Indian requirements and diets.

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Phu Quoc meets all the conditions to become the destination of super luxury wedding parties. (Photo: internet)

However, he said, he has not received much help from local officials in comparison to some other places such as Bahrain.

Nguyen Thi Xuan Ngoc, who has a decade of experience in running hotels and organising events in Indonesia and Vietnam, said support from the Vietnamese government had been modest compared to that of other countries, particularly in terms of investing in promotion campaigns at international trade shows such as ITB Asia and World Travel Market. These industry mega events gather vendors, hotel managers, event planners, and other travel industry figures to promote their packages and elevate the international profile of individual countries as travel and event hotspots.

In addition, the founder of Virtual Desire Events, a Ho Chi Minh City-based e-commerce platform for event planners and vendors, also believes that Phu Quoc should not be built as a mere wedding destination for the rich in India.

“As we promote Phu Quoc as a destination for expensive weddings, the main beneficiaries will be branded hotels, not local actors. We are using the five-star hotels, not the destination itself, to attract people." said Ngoc.

Added Ngoc: “Vietnam has no shortage of quality service providers. Phu Quoc is a good example of big brands and local vendors with an international mindset.”