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IF YOU are looking for a luxurious beach holiday just a short hop from Singapore, Desaru could soon be just what you are looking for. Being accessible by road and ferry, a Desaru vacation avoids all the hassle accompanying air travel. Admittedly, few Singaporeans would consider Desaru to be a destination that conjures up images of luxury and extravagance. This, however, is about to change.
The Desaru Coast, which describes itself as an integrated destination resort, covers more than 3,900 acres along a 17-km beachfront facing the South China Sea. It touts itself as a location that is ''set amid a rich biodiverse location''.
Desaru Coast is already home to the Els Club Desaru Coast, offering 45 holes of golf split between the Ocean Course and the Valley Course. Two international hotel chains - Hard Rock Hotel and Westin - have also opened their doors in the development.
However, the real luxury hard hitters will only start rolling out their respective red carpets from the end of this year. Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas has started accepting bookings for December while One&Only Desaru is slated to open in early 2020.
The company behind the Desaru Coast development is Themed Attractions Resorts & Hotels (TAR&H), established by sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad.
TAR&H group chief executive officer Amir Hamzah Azizan told The New Straits Times in January this year, ''Our projects aim to shape new destinations to deliver sustainable economic value to the communities by creating jobs and quality tourism content. For example, if you look at Desaru, apart from what we have put up, there are also other attractions around Desaru Coast which will benefi t from our development.
''The natural landscape around Desaru Coast has potential for specially curated tour offerings, such as mangrove tours, the Panti Forest for bird watching and several locations for hiking.
''By putting in nature, I think you create offerings that you cannot replicate by building brick and mortar hubs.''
BOTH Anantara and One&Only are two well-established and well-known luxury hotel brands. The two chains have been ranked among the top 12 luxury hotel brands by Luxury Travel Intelligence (LTI) ... a members-only global digital resource for luxury travel. According to LTI, which has been described as a posh TripAdvisor, the top three luxury brands for 2019 are Belmond, Mandarin Oriental, and Four Seasons.
Anantara, which did not make it to the LTI list in 2018, snagged the last spot in the top 12 this year. The resort chain opened its fi rst luxury property in 2001 in Thailand's historic seaside retreat of Hua Hin. Its hotel portfolio now includes countries such as Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Maldives and Mozambique.
For the Anantara Desaru, guests will be able to choose from 108 rooms, villas and residences. The resort will also have two pools, including a beachfront infi nity pool as well as a spa where you can treat yourself to a 24-carat gold facial. When it opens on Dec 1, a one-bedroom lagoon pool villa will set you back about S$945++ per night.
ONE&ONLY, which is owned by Kerzner International, is 11th in LTI's 2019 list of top 12 luxury hotel brands. In addition, its Desaru Coast property has made it to Forbes' List of 40 Most Anticipated Luxury Hotel Openings for 2020.
One&Only, which has its presence in countries such as Mexico, Mauritius, and South Africa, is expanding its presence around the world. Apart from the Desaru resort, it is also establishing resorts in Montenegro, Mexico and Greece.
Its 128-acre Desaru beachfront development will include 42 suites, two luxury suites and a four-bedroom villa. In addition, 50 One&Only private homes will also be available for purchase.
Philippe Zuber, chief operating offi cer for Kerzner International, notes that Desaru will be One&Only's fi rst resort in Asia.
He added that while Singaporeans and Hongkongers have been going to its resorts in places like the Maldives, ''One&Only is not very well known in Asia''. ''The opening of our Desaru resort will increase this awareness.''
He added the group was very bullish about the Asian market, especially the Chinese and Japanese markets.
''For Japan, honeymooners are a particularly strong market for the One&Only resorts but there are a lot of opportunities beyond that,'' said Mr Zuber, without elaborating.
As for Desaru, he said that it had all the fundamentals of a One&Only resort.
''It has a fantastic beach and a great design. We are bringing our expertise to manage a resort which would offer a unique and meaningful experience for our guests.''
Like all the other One&Only properties, the resort will place an emphasis on guest privacy, and providing the ultimate hideaway.