Bird’s eye view of the Lotus Desaru Resort and Spa.
Beachfront dining

KOTA TINGGI: Foreseeing an influx of more visitors to the Desaru coast in the coming years, a hotelier under the Lotus Group expects a promising future in the upcoming tourist belt project in Johor’s south-eastern coast.

One of the most popular accommodation in the coastal destination, the Lotus Desaru Beach Resort and Spa has 793 rooms including apartment suites and penthouses.

The four-star resort commands a fantastic view of the South China Sea and has enjoyed a high occupancy rate during peak seasons.

Lotus Group chief executive officer Datuk R. Doraisingam Pillai said the resort was almost fully booked during the year-end holiday season last year.

This had been seen even before the buzz began on Petroliam Nasional Bhd’s Petronas Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) in nearby Pengerang.

“The occupancy rate for the resort reached 95 per cent at the peak of the year-end holiday season in December last year. It remained at that rate until earlier this year.

“What is encouraging is that this was the occupancy rate even before Rapid and other projects in the oil and gas hub in Pengerang were up and running.

“While we usually see an average of 40 per cent occupancy rate in the week days, it can reach between 80 and 90 per cent during the weekends,” Doraisingam told NST Property.

Recalling the start of the Lotus Group’s resort venture in Desaru, Doraisingam said he fell in love with the beach the first time he laid eyes on it.

“The resort was formerly known as Impiana Desaru and was closed down when we discovered it 10 years ago.

“I remember when I first stepped foot on the property. It needed a lot of work, but I fell in love with the beautiful beach.

“The Lotus Group rescued the project and we conducted a full revamp of the entire property,” he said, adding that the acquisition and renovation process took two years at about RM100 million.

Doraisingam decided to forgo an initial plan to turn the property into a retirement home as he felt it had more potential as a resort.

His decision to revamp the resort came at the right time as it coincided with the start of development for the Rapid project and when the Senai-Desaru Expressway was built.

Bigger things are in store for Desaru as a Khazanah Nasional Bhd subsidiary, Themed Attractions Resorts and Hotels (TAR&H) Sdn Bhd, is developing the mammoth Desaru Coast project.

Spanning a 1,578ha area along 17km of pristine unspoilt beachfront, Desaru Coast will include globally renowned hotels and resorts, including the Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast, the Aman-branded Resort and Aman Villas, Westin Desaru Resort and Anantara Desaru Resort and Villas.

There are two championship golf courses at the 27-hole Els Club Desaru Coast and 18-hole Els Club Desaru Valley, a themed water park and a retail village, among others.

Phase 1 of Desaru Coast, which comprises the golf courses, hotels, waterpark, conference centre and retail village, will take up slightly more than 625ha.

It was reported that the gross development value for Phase 1 was about RM5 billion.

TAR&H had said Phase 2 to Phase 5 of the project would be developed between this year and 2022.

Doraisingam’s sister R. Indra Gandhi Pillai, who is the group operations officer for the Lotus Desaru Beach Resort and Spa, said the big projects would complement the resort as holidaymakers would still go for quality accommodations at competitive prices.

“While Tan Sri Tony Fernandes’s motto for AirAsia is ‘Now Everyone Can Fly’, the Lotus group says everyone can have a good holiday at good rates.

“The resort has been booming, even before Rapid, and the Desaru Coast project can only bring more good things for hoteliers in this coastal area,” said Indra Gandhi.

She added that as part of an expansion plan, there would be another 555-room five-star hotel, also managed by the Lotus Group, which was expected to start by June this year near the current resort.