The latest string of high-end hotel openings in Desaru is a signal of the growing maturity of the Malaysian coastal destination, even as Malaysian borders currently remain closed to international travellers.
One&Only Desaru Coast's September 6 opening marks the ultra-luxury brand's debut in Asia, where its location, a two hours' drive from Singapore, is expect to lure domestic as well as regional road trippers.
"One and Only Desaru Coast is designed as an idyllic escape from city life, which I think is what people are craving right now – a welcome oasis for those yearning for a change in pace and scenery," said the resort's general manager, Jerome Colson.
Set along the southeastern coast in Johor, the 52-hectare property boasts 42 junior suites, a pair of two-bedroom grand suites and an expansive 1,500 sqm four-bedroom villa, each boasting its private plunge pools, expansive indoor and outdoor spaces, and local design inspired by the traditional 'kampung'.
Amenities at the resort are a nod towards its local environs, spanning the Ember Beach Club, a 50m infinity pool, Chenot Spa, and Club One – which offers activities such as tennis, kite surfing, stand-up paddleboarding and Silat Melayu (traditional Malaysian martial art) class - as well as a trio of restaurants.
Also on offer are experiences to explore the resort's jungle surroundings and wildlife with a resident naturalist or an expert tree arborist, plus tours of the chef's herbs and spices gardens to gain a better understanding of different chilli varieties such as the Mexican habanero and Thai bird's eye that are commonly found on Southeast Asian tables, Colson told Travel Weekly Asia.
"We want to provide guests the chance to immerse themselves in Malaysia's vibrant culture," he added.
Anantara Desaru Resort & Villas is the brand's first property in Malaysia.
Growing the domestic luxury market
Anantara Desaru Resort & Villas recently reopened following its earlier debut in December 2019, offering 90 en-suite deluxe rooms in low-rise traditional Malay buildings, and 13 double-storey one and two-bedroom pool villas encircling a lagoon.
The Anantara property, the brand's first in Malaysia, is seeing strong demand from the domestic drive market, according to the resort's director of sales & marketing Sugnan Prabhandam.
"There's nothing like the convenience of travelling with no crowds, at your own pace and in your own bubble during these unprecedented times," he said.
"The choice of luxury resorts within peninsular Malaysia are very limited, which limits the dilution of business. However, choices available at lower price points take a major share of the mass market," said Prabhandam.
However, he also believes the luxury market in Malaysia "appears to be resilient" and is still primed for further growth.
Both Prabhandam and Colson said that there are opportunities to cultivate their hotels' brand presence in the domestic market, particularly among families, resident expats and corporate companies from Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru.
"As well as being easily accessible from Singapore, One&Only Desaru is just an hour from Senai airport in Johor Bahru or a four-hour drive door-to-door from Kuala Lumpur. People are looking to explore their own countries and discover new destinations – we've seen fantastic response from domestic travellers," said Colson.