Vietnam is closer to having its own Disneyland-style theme park.Last month, South Fork Development won a licence to build an amusement park and resort complex in Phan Thiet town - a popular tourist destination 300 kilometres north of Ho Chi Minh City. The project has $50 million in registered investment capital, but a company director told Vietnam Investment Review it would cost closer to $1 billion to build the complex during the next five to seven years.
The licensing process took nearly a year, with investment officials carefully considering its feasibility and financial viability. As the process took such a long time to complete, the investment partners considered moving the project to Thailand but in the end decided to stay in Vietnam. The company said it chose Vietnam because the country is rapidly becoming a popular tourist and commercial destination for people around the world, with Phan Thiet considered a prime spot for resort development.
Foreign arrivals to Vietnam continue to grow following the recent slump caused by SARS and bird flu. More than 2.6 million foreign visitors arrived so far this year - a 23 per cent increase on the same period last year. The surge in tourism has ignited interest among foreign investors, who have registered to pour $209 million into the industry this year.
A number of large tourism and hotel projects are also in the pipeline, including a $300 million resort in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province.
The proposed South Fork resort is expected to boost tourism development in Phan Thiet, which currently has a multitude of hotels and resorts, but few recreational facilities.
Vietnam has long been calling for foreign investment in an entertainment complex designed exclusively for tourists, but few investors have responded to the appeal. Most have instead directed their money into hotels and resorts.
There are few large entertainment complexes in Vietnam, with the exception being Tuan Chau Island in Halong Bay - a locally developed property that offers a circus and dolphin and crocodile shows. A casino and golf course is also planned for the area to take advantage of the soaring numbers of foreign visitors to the World Heritage Listed site.
South Fork will develop two separate parcels of beach front property based on 50-year extendable leases, including South Fork Canyon and South Fork Twin Capes.
The complex will include resorts, golf courses, villas and conference centres. The centre of the South Fork Twin Capes will feature a series of connected Asian-themed resorts, with a main street designed in the style of downtown Disneyland. Twin Capes will have seven villa communities, with more than 1,000 villas planned for construction in various phases. South Fork has also expressed interest in including casinos and shopping centres in the complex.
The second component, South Fork Canyon Resort, will cover 100 hectares and include four different resorts and villas.