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Desaru, a popular destination among locals is fast becoming an international tourist destination.

In addition to Khazanah Nasional’s huge investment in the leisure, tourism and hospitality sector in the area, a local food, movie and property based company’s decision to invest in the area has also paid dividends.

Lotus Group of companies chief executive officer Datuk R. Dorai­singam Pillai said many were sceptical when they first bought an abandoned hotel project in an auction in 2007.

“That property had changed hands several times earlier and all of them failed. We bought the development for RM40mil and spent another RM60mil to do up the place two years later.

“I must admit that in the beginning it was tough. Occupancy was about 10% but thanks to our determination and commitment, we are now enjoying an occupancy rate of 70% to 80%,” he said, attributing this to the rapid development taking place around Desaru and Pengerang.

Doraisingam added that the Senai-Desaru Highway, which was opened in 2012, had also contributed greatly to the resort’s success as it had cut short travelling time between Johor Baru and Desaru.

The Group is also embarking on its own expansion plans including investing about RM250mil to develop a 400-room, five-star hotel next to the Lotus Desaru Beach Resort and another RM20mil for a 200-room boutique hotel in Teluk Ramunia.

“The boutique hotel, known as Lotus Sea View and Spa is undergoing renovation and we expect to open in November,” said Doraisingam, adding that the other five-star hotel, which has yet to be named, would be completed by 2018.

He stressed that Khazanah’s investments in two international golf courses, a marine water theme park and hotels, among others, would definitely bring more tourists into the area.

“Once the ferry service is expanded to allow cars to come here from Singapore, this area will become even busier.

“We believe that our hotels will be able to cater for greater demand here,” he added.

Doraisingam (left) and Indra have a passionate about their family-run business.

Meanwhile, Doraisingam’s younger sister R. Indra Gandhi, who is the Group’s chief operations officer, said that some 400 staff manage the sprawling 26ha Lotus Desaru with 1,600 rooms.

“We are easily the biggest beach resort in Malaysia. We are also getting a lot of international tourists,” said Indra, who is a lawyer.

She thanked government agencies for their support, especially Tourism Malaysia, Johor Tourism Department, local councils, the district office and local politicians.

She said the resort has a children’s water theme park, water sport activities, three swimming pools, two restaurants, an ayurveda spa and a ballroom which can accommodate up to 1,800 people.

“Presently 60% of our occupants are locals while the rest are foreigners,” she said.

Indra added that the resort has also hosted large-scale events including a family day for about 5,000 people.

The resort’s head chef Lasim Muhammad Piah will oversee the dishes for the Ramadan buka puasa buffet.

Asked about the family’s success, Indra said that their late father was a philanthropist who wanted all his five children to always stay united and work as a team.

“This is a family business and four of us are involved in running it. Someday, we hope the third generation will continue to lead and grow this business,” she said.

Indra said that the resort was currently having a promotion for its Ramadan buka puasa spread.

“The usual price is RM48nett but if you book before June 6, we are selling 10 pax vouchers at RM380,” she said, adding about 60 types of food including grilled lamb and satay would be served.

Source : TheStar