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VUNG TAU PROVINCE, VIETNAM-The country has given the green light to a $4.2 billion resort here, by granting Asian Coast Development Ltd. the first foreigner investment certificate. The Toronto-based developer plans to build the Ho Tram Strip, a five-resort complex, with more than 9,000 rooms, two casinos, restaurants and nightclubs, theaters, a golf course and more than 200,000 sf of retail.

The company secured a 50-year lease agreement with the Vietnamese government for 169 hectares on three kilometres of beachfront, surrounded by forestry preservation reserves. The first phase of the project, along the South China Sea, will be made up of a five-star hotel with 1,100 rooms, a Greg Norman-designed golf course and a Las Vegas-style casino, slated to open in late 2010. The second phase will have a resort with 1,300 rooms, another casino and retail, and should open in spring 2011. “The next three phases will be developed in under 10 years, and will account for the remainder of the 9,000 rooms,” Michael Aymong, chairman of the company, tells GlobeSt.com.

He says Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and tourism there is growing at a rate of 25% a year. International visitors in the first four months of 2008 reached almost 1.7 million, 16% more than the same period in 2007. “The area where the resort is going has a temperate climate and more than 100 kilometers of white-sand beaches,” Aymong says. “Though southern Vietnam is currently home to 32% of all hotels in the country, there are no five-star resorts here to cater to the high-end tourist market. Additionally, the four and five-star hotels in Ho Chi Minh City are running at about 97% capacity.”

His company was fortunate enough to get the first investment certificate handed out, he says. “The government has also indicated that there will be a very limited number of this type of investment certificate, presenting significant barriers to entry for any competitors,” Aymong tells GlobeSt.com. The certificate will be presented today at a ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City with government officials, including Canada’s former prime minister Jean Chretien, who is serving as a special advisor to the company on the project. The event will be followed by a groundbreaking for the project.

The resort does not have a brand yet, but that is coming, Aymong says. “We have signed letters of intent with a number of top global hotel brands, and expect to have an announcement about a flag within the next 90 to 120 days,” he says.

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