This is the first in a trilogy of posts about a well-known company that many people have strong feelings at both ends of the spectrum. On a personal note, I do not have an ax to grind vis-à-vis Vingroup. I like some of their initiatives and products, including VinUniversity and electric motorbikes, cars, and buses. Yes, I’ve been to Vinmec Hospital (mixed results) and occasionally shop at VinMart, most of which will soon become WinMart, but I reserve the right to exercise constructive criticism of other projects, including those related to real estate. This and the two posts that follow are examples of that.
Given its ubiquitous cradle-to-grave presence and steady stream of corporate propaganda, most Vietnamese HEART Vingroup, somehow equating its “success” with the country’s success. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy: patriotism, love and devotion to Viet Nam, encompasses one of its most profitable companies. Vingroup had a market cap of $15.5 billion in March 2021. It was the only Vietnamese company among the top 750 family-owned companies in the world with a ranking of 410th. (Here are two previous posts about Vingroup: The Long Arm of Vingroup, Including Education from 7.6.18 and VinUniversity as the Crown Jewel of Vinhomes Ocean Park from 17.8.20.)
Check out this excerpt from a recent press release. Vietnam Times, an online publication of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO), was so kind as to reprint it lock, stock, and barrel.
On April 21st, 2021, Vingroup Group will officially open Phu Quoc United Center in the North of Pearl Island (Đảo Ngọc). With a scale of over 1,000 hectares and thousands of record entertainment items in addition to a 24/7 resort and shopping ecosystem, Phu Quoc United Center will be the first sleepless super complex in Vietnam, making Phu Quoc a “new international destination” in Asia.
Gosh, I was so excited (not). Just what Viet Nam and the world need (not). Here are some words to describe this and similar projects: kitschy, gawdy, tacky, ugly, tasteless, garish, insert your own (disparaging) adjective! Now imagine – if you can – this “super complex” spread over 1000 hectares (2471 acres).
According to a recent Euromonitor International report, Vietnam finished in the bottom five of a global sustainable tourism ranking, placing 96th out of 99 economies. The index looked at seven aspects of sustainable tourism, including environmental, social and economic sustainability, country risk as well as sustainable tourism demand, transport and lodging.
Viet Nam already had a reputation as a country with too few repeat customers because of substandard staff training and, as a result, poor service. Pollution is another factor that affects quality of life, healthy life expectancy, life expectancy, economic sustainability, and therefore tourism. My sources tell me that this once pristine island is experiencing rapid environment degradation, thanks to the proliferation of new resorts. Profit at the expense of nature and all creatures that reside therein, including human beings.
I had the privilege and pleasure of visiting Phú Quốc a number of times before the powers that be and companies like Vingroup decided to turn it into an island Disneyland in the relentless pursuit of profit. I have fond memories of the scenic beauty, the peace and quiet, and the relative cleanliness. I don’t think I’ll return unless it’s on a fact-finding mission. I get regular updates from a Facebook friend and most of the news is not happy, sorry to say.
What you see above is what this tropical paradise is quickly becoming. It may appeal to a lot of domestic tourists but not to most foreigners. It is the latter who contribute the lion’s share to the nation’s tourism and hospitality industry, which accounts for 6-7% of GDP. Viet Nam is looking forward to welcoming them and their wallets back in the post-COVID-19 era. The question is: Will it be their first and only trip? The same applies to other destinations, including Phan Thiết, which recently reappeared on my radar.
Oh well, there’s always Côn Đảo and other destinations, for the time being, not to mention other countries in the region and beyond. Beyond Viet Nam and in the medium- to long-term, I find consolation in the knowledge that the earth will recover from the damage that humankind has inflicted on it long after we’re gone, even if it’s millions of years. Our lives are short but time is infinite.
Postscript: Speaking of savvy marketing, it was no coincidence that Vingroup scheduled the grand opening of this “24/7 resort and shopping ecosystem” on 21 April, which happened to be Hùng Kings’ Commemoration Day this year, a national holiday commemorating the founding kings of Viet Nam. It’s the US equivalent of scheduling a major corporate announcement on the 4th of July. It makes me wonder what they and other notable Vietnamese throughout this country’s long and glorious history, including Hồ Chí Minh and Võ Nguyên Giáp, would think of this “sleepless city” and the price that has been and will continue to be paid for its creation.
Shalom (שלום), MAA