Phan Thanh Phong, chief officer of Hai Tac (Pirate) Archipelago, 20km off the south-western coast, has a dream like all the other residents in the island commune.

Speaking to journalists who recently visited Tien Hai commune — the official name of the archipelago – said he wished power supply to the islands were not restricted to seven hours a day as at present.

Unlike Phu Quoc Island, which too belongs to Kien Giang province, the place is not connected by an undersea power cable, and all the electricity is from generators.

He also hoped for more investments in the islands to create jobs for locals since the fish catch in the sea is falling inexorably.

Tourism could be the next big thing for the beautiful islands, and the commune administration realises this and is hoping to exploit the archipelago's vast potential.

The commune consists of 14 islands on which 420 families with 1,822 people live. Only six of the islands are inhabited, and most people here earn their livelihoods from fishing.

But fish stocks are running out in the areas around the islands since locals do not have the large vessels required to fish offshore, Phong said. In the first half this year the catch was 6,180 tonnes, 4 percent down from the same period last year.

He said tourism could be a good alternative, adding that around 700 local and foreign tourists have visited the islands this year.

The commune only started using generators in 1999, before which hardly anyone visited.

Phan Hong Phuc, Deputy Chairman of the commune People's Committee, said investors are encouraged to enter tourism, which would be the key sector of the economy in future.

"The commune's name, Hai Tac (Pirate) Archipelago, causes much curiosity among tourists.

"Centuries ago this area was a base for pirates from various countries in the region.

"The commune is situated not very far from Ha Tien town. We are calling for investment in hotels, resorts, and activities like fishing, snorkeling, and diving to the coral reefs."

Besides Hai Tac, the other major archipelagos off the country's south-western coast are Ba Lua, Nam Du, Phu Quoc, and Tho Chau, which together comprise 143 islands.

Kien Giang tourism potential

Nguyen Van Sau, Deputy Director of the Kien Giang provincial Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism, said the province, which has deltas, mountains, forests, and islands, has great potential for tourism.

The province has many beautiful and romantic islands with long, white beaches and a year-round tropical climate.

The area around Ha Tien – Kien Luong is home to attractions like Mui Nai Cape, Thach Dong Cave, To Chau Mountain, Da Dung Mountain, Dong Ho Lake, and Phu Tu Island.

Of Kien Giang's 143 islands, 43 are inhabited including Phu Quoc, which has a population of more than 100,000.

Sau admitted that living standards on the islands are much lower than on the mainland.

Lack of transportation and electricity is a hurdle to the economic development of the islands, he said, but promised that infrastructure would be improved soon to attract investments.

"Kien Giang plans to install undersea cables to islands located less than 30km from the mainland; [those] situated beyond 30km from the mainland will be provided with wind and solar power."

According to figures from his department, the number of tourists to Kien Giang is growing by 15 percent annually and to Phu Quoc, by 20 percent. In the first six months of this year more than two million people visited Kien Giang.

Last year the tourism industry contributed 4.5 percent of Kien Giang's GDP, and the province hopes to increase that to 10 percent by 2020.

"The tourism sector in Kien Giang, especially sea-related tourism, has yet to fulfil its potential though there are some major projects in Phu Quoc," Sau added.-VNA