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November 25, 2008

Vietnam starts building $1bn airport on new resort island

Vietnam has begun construction of a new international airport on a popular tourist island off the country's southern coast, aiming to boost passenger capacity to the destination by 10 fold, Reuters quoted officials as saying Monday.

The $1 billion airport will help accommodate the influx of tourists to Phu Quoc, where several luxury hotels have opened recently and several more are under construction.

When the first phase is finished in four years, the new Phu Quoc International Airport will be able to handle 3 million travelers a year - 10 times the current airport's capacity, said Nguyen Tien Viet of Vietnam's Southern Airport Corp.

Eventually, the airport would be able to handle 7 million passengers a year, Viet said.

Speaking at a ground breaking ceremony on Sunday, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said the new airport will help boost the country's economic growth.

"The island will be one of the country's major transportation and commercial centers once the new airport is put into operation, contributing to the regional and national economic growth," Dung was quoted as saying on the government Web site.

During peak times, travelers to the Phu Quoc's white sand beaches often have trouble booking flights to and from the island.

Currently, there are six flights a day between the island and the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City. Travelers also can get to the island by speed boat. Last year, Vietnam received an estimated 4 million travelers.

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