Investors are lining up for a piece of Vietnam’s “China Beach,” once a wartime rest and recreation spot for US soldiers, which industry players say could become a tourism hotspot to rival Bali or Phuket.
Stretching about 30km from the mountain-fringed central Vietnam city of Danang to the heritage town of Hoi An, the white sand beach — known locally by other names — has been relatively undeveloped despite its beauty.
But foreign and local investors have staked their claims, walling off areas of the beach in preparation for development, even though some sites remain little more than sand-blown scrub beside the glistening sea.
“I think our beach is better than Bali,” said Nguyen Duc Quynh, executive assistant manager of the Furama Resort Danang, which opened 12 years ago as the beach’s lone five-star resort and is preparing to build 134 adjacent residential villas with private pools.
“Actually we wanted to start at the beginning of the year,” he said. “The real estate market was not there. Now, I think the market’s already back.”
Tourism and investment officials in Danang list several other developments under way along the beach, despite a global economic and financial crisis that affected some projects and reduced the number of overseas tourists.
They say a shortage of direct international flights to the area and insufficient promotion of its attractions have also hindered development, but express faith in its longer-term potential.
“Over the next 10 years we’ll fully develop that strip,” said Truong Hao, vice director of the Danang Investment Promotion Center. “We have to go step by step.”
Some developers are not waiting.
Vietnam’s Indochina Land, the real estate arm of financial services firm Indochina Capital, began on April 30 selling condominiums and villas at its Hyatt Regency Danang Residences on the beach.
Major construction had not yet begun, but by late last month more than 60 percent of units were sold, mostly to local investors, said Phan Thi Y Nhi, a sales executive for Savills, the agent.
“All the project will be finished in 2011,” she said at a model condominium unit on the site, where foundation stones were piled on the beach.
A 75m² apartment was selling for US$180,000, she said, adding that a Hyatt hotel is to be part of the development.
Indochina Land is also developing the Montgomerie Links Vietnam golf course and villas further along the strip towards Hoi An, not far from a similar project by Vietnamese asset management and real estate firm VinaCapital.
VinaCapital’s golf course, designed by Greg Norman, is taking shape on one side of the road, while on the beach side a sign promotes The Ocean Villas, starting from US$320,000.
Even before the formal launch of the project next month, about 20 villas were reserved by Vietnamese buyers over a three-week period, said Nguyen Ngoc Thuyen, Savills’ project manager.
He foresees Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City residents buying the villas as second homes because “it’s 10 times cheaper than Hanoi ... It’s a good investment.”
Thuyen also touts the area’s appeal for tourists, saying: “It’s safer for you to come here than Thailand.”
JW Marriott is to manage a hotel on the site, with construction set to begin next year after bank funding is secured, he said.
The company plans a second hotel and golf course over a 10-year period as the area aims to compete with regional tourist centers like Indonesia’s Bali and Phuket in Thailand, Thuyen said, showing a model of the resort.