During the 1980′s Desaru was a very popular beach destination with about half a dozen hotels. Events since then have not been kind to Desaru. Relatively cheaper airfares and more attractive Asian regional beach destinations lured travelers away from Desaru. The deteriorating numbers of visitors led accommodation standards into a downward spiral. Without further coherent tourism development planning each negative circumstance re-enforced the other.
The new Senai-Desaru Expressway also improves accessibility from others parts of Johor as well as for visitors coming from Singapore. Even existing properties like the 190-key Pulai Desaru Beach Resort has been recently updated to take advantage of the renewed interest in the location.
While the re-development of Desaru is highly praised and total room count can yield about 600,000 visitors annually a key question remains: Does the new Desaru Coast capture the full tourism development potential of the area?
Let’s examine the SWOT to understand some of the broader dynamics inherent in Desaru.
Rapid Transit Link between Singapore and Johor Bahru that’s slated to commence operations by 2018.
Excellent investment location for coastal resort homes due to proximity to a financial hub, clarity on land laws and land titles, favorable foreign property ownership and property financing regulations (compared against other regional countries) as well as MM2H incentives.
Currently requires private transport to get there.
A lack of a property ‘maintenance’ culture in the country as a whole. See here.
Lacks the charm of Thailand or an exotic visual culture like in Bali.
An unsafe image due to life lost to drowning as well as concerns about generalpublic safety and security in the state of Johor.
Greater international tourism accessibility being located next to Singapore and in particular across from the airport at Changi.
A possible Third (3rd) Bridge Link between Malaysia and Singapore can potentially form an excellent basis for Desaru becoming a major international tourism destination.
Excellent location for coastal homes along the lines of a New York City – Long Island model (just as Iskandar Malaysia – Singapore are touted as a Shenzhen – Hongkong model for industry). This resort / tourism / residential strip could potentially stretch all the way to Teluk Mahkota.
With proper planning and execution this can be an opportunity to target higher yield visitors as envisioned in the ETP Tourism Handbook.
Existing attributes can potentially turn Desaru into a modern and contemporary coastal destination that can rival existing regional competition in visitorship.
Competition from much more established regional coastal destinations.
It’s quite apparent that there are opportunities to be seized in the vision of a greater Desaru development. While the upcoming Desaru Coast project will be a much-needed catalyst to revive Desaru as a tourism destination its current scale is not sufficient to capture the full potential that the location offers.
For Desaru to be transformational to the Malaysian economy and tourism landscape, a larger scale tourism master plan needs to be developed and supported at the level of Iskandar Malaysia in order to make it work over the longer term. To be transformational it should complement and tap the potential of the Singapore economy just like it’s currently being done for other industries. At the same time leverage off Singapore’s global accessibility in order to capture a slice of the larger global tourism market. This would necessarily make Desaru an international destination in and of it self – a challenging and not straight forward task. But the payoff can be potentially significant. Indeed the good news is that much of the foundation and key ingredients are already in place. This begs the next question: Does Iskandar Malaysia view a greater Desaru tourism development area as sufficiently strategic and worthy of consideration?