Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Authors Posts by Asia Coastal

Asia Coastal


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Mark Gwyther from MGT Management Consulting in Vietnam contributed this post. 

I’ve been asked several times just how badly Vietnam’s hospitality business was affected by problems resulting from the East Sea dispute with China. From the investor’s point of view, it is much worse than most people realize. Back in April (the anti-Chinese riots occurred mid-May) Vietnam’s inbound international arrivals were up 27% for the year compared to the previous year. This was buoyed by a 47% increase in Chinese visitors. In our January newsletter, my firm predicted 8.9 million foreign arrivals in 2014 (18% growth) and by April it had looked like we might be slightly low. Others such as the CEO of Indochina Land, were saying “Right now we’re at an inflection point with supply and demand. But I see demand outstripping supply within the next 12 months.”[1].

Vietnam hospitality was poised to have a huge year.


First Impressions

At first it did not look so bad. When the tourism numbers came out at the end of May the Vietnamese media reported the East Sea dispute was not having much of an impact since the number of Chinese arrivals was still up 30% for the month compared to the year before. But in the first half of May, before the troubles began, Chinese arrivals were likely up more than 50% compared to the first half of May 2013. So the effect in the 2nd half of the month was actually very significant.

Growth of Chinese Inbound Arrivals (vs. Previous Year) – Jan 2012 to April 2014

Vietnam Chinese Inbound Visitor Growth 2012 2014

Another factor leading to a lack of understanding of the impact was how VNAT reports statistics. Monthly international inbound numbers are released around the 25th of the month-meaning they estimate the final few days. VNAT most likely uses the growth rate of the first 25 days of the month and applies it to the final few days. This method becomes very inaccurate when a mid-month event changes everything. Applying a 30% growth rate to the final five days of the month would add a significant amount of inbound arrivals compared to a 30% decline.


The Actual Cost

As the summer wore on it became very apparent to everyone that the East Sea dispute had significant implications for tourism. The cumulative growth rate versus the previous year steadily dropped from 27% in April to 10% by the end of September. Still, most media didn’t recognize or didn’t report the real damage of opportunity costs.

In 2013, more than a quarter of all international visitors to Vietnam were Chinese. The Chinese market is bigger than the next three countries combined. Of course many of those visits are cross-border trading, but that proportion of cross-border traders is decreasing as a percentage of the total number of Chinese visitors- indicating a shift to more traditional tourism. That’s hardly surprising as most countries throughout the world are experience large growth in the number of Chinese inbounds.


Chinese Arrivals to Vietnam

Chinese Visitor Arrival Vietnam 2009 2013

Almost as importantly, this rate has been increasing over time, signifying exponential growth. The trend line for monthly growth rates from January 2013 to April 2014 shows an average monthly increase in the rate of growth of about 1.5%.


Monthly Increase in Chinese Tourism Growth

January & February always have large spikes due to the Tet Holiday moving.

Monthly Increase Chinese Visitor Growth Vietnam

When estimating how many tourists Vietnam lost, we must forecast the regular growth plus the additional amount from increasing growth rates. For the first four months of 2014, Chinese increased 48% from the previous year. This growth rate was accelerating at about 1.5% per month, which means if we had forecasted Chinese arrivals back in April, we’d have come up with this prediction.

   May 14  June 14  July 14  Aug 14  Sep 14 4 Month Total
2013 Chinese Visitors 148,606 129,577 173,257 190,358 169,682 811,480
Expected Growth (48%) 71,331 62,197 83,163 91,372 81,447 389,510
Accelerated Growth 2,330 3,887 7,796 11,421 12,726 38,160
Expected Total 222,267 195,661 264217 293151 263,856 1,200,990
Actual Total 194,018 136,726 123,442 135,170 148,895 738,251
Difference 28,249 58,925 140,775 157,981 114,961 462,739

That’s over 450,000 visitors that should have arrived but didn’t.   If the average stay is over 4 nights with double occupancy, we are discussing a million room nights lost in four months. Developers and investors were anticipating growth in the Chinese outbound market and instead it suddenly shrunk dramatically.


What’s Next?

This is not the first time the Chinese Government has used its outbound tourists as an economic weapon against another country. In May 2012, they advised travel agencies (many which are state-owned) to cancel tours to The Philippines because of protests at the Chinese embassy in Manila. They lifted the ban several months later and Chinese arrivals to The Philippines increased by 70% in 2013[2]. That would seem to indicate the Chinese travelers will come back rapidly once relations begin to normalize.



[2] The Chinese government re-instated its travel warnings to The Philippines last month.


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Wichit Na Ranong Phuket
Wichit Na Ranong. Image by: The Phuket News

The Phuket News has some very relevant views on destination development from people on the ground. Full text reproduced here :-

What began as a discussion, arranged by the Phuket chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce, about Phuket’s identity, and the way the island should be branded to ensure that tourist numbers continue to rise, took an abrupt turn.

As David Keen of branding company Quo gave examples of how New Zealand had boosted numbers with its “Pure” campaign, or how Yorkshire had done the same with its “Have a brilliant Yorkshire”, there were mutters all around the room, filled with around 200 people, about whether Phuket needs any more tourists or, indeed, can stand any more.

On the stage, the father of Phuket tourism, Wichit Na Ranong, explained how, decades ago, he and others had formulated a plan for the government to guide Phuket’s tourism development.

It was accepted and although Thai Airways started flying regularly to the island, there was no budget for most of the rest of the plan, so it didn’t happen.

Alongside him, Daniel Meury of Andara commented, “Phuket is paying the price for its success.” Anthony Lark of Montara, agreed. “Phuket used to be beaches and Thainess. Market forces have driven development in an uncontrolled way. Perceptions of Phuket are mixed. There are many negative opinions.”

In the audience, Wolfgang Meusburger who includes in his portfolio the Holiday Inn in Patong, said,

“It’s a classic case of things going bad when there is no control and everyone does whatever they want.”

Mr Keen, always nimble on his feet, swerved away from his numbers but argued that Phuket still needs to define itself. Without definition there would be no pride and no direction. He even offered to work on Phuket’s brand pro-bono.

He challenged anyone in the audience to sum the island up in a word or phrase. There were no takers.

So Mr Keen called for hands from those who would join an über-committee – a Tourism Council of Phuket, perhaps – to include the various chambers, associations, clubs and stakeholder organisations on the island that are already involved in steering things, often in conflicting directions. Perhaps 25 hands went up.

Russell Russell spoke for many when he said, “There really is no one in this room who can drive forward the changes needed in infrastructure and branding. We can talk about it but we can’t drive it.”

But Mr Wichit disagreed that it was time for the government, or some form of authority, to take a grip and make a plan.

“No, not top-down,” he said. “No one is better than the people sitting here and the stakeholders to create the plan.”

Presenting the plan to government, in a way that it would be accepted and supported, is an art, he explained. “You have to cook the food and then chew it for them. Then you can take it to a higher level [so they can digest it easily].”

He added, “Any children who stay quiet get forgotten. So you have to demand.” But who would do this cooking, chewing and demanding? Michael Ayling, new boss of Royal Phuket Marina, agreed that it was “now the time to come together”.

“Phuket is developing as a mass tourism destination,” he said, causing shudders around the room, “and we have to adapt to that.” He suggested that the major developers should take the lead.

Mr Lark – who could never be accused of catering to mass tourism – said that, instead, “Phuket needs breathing space to slow down, to fix the garbage, infrastructure and development.”

Mr Wichit came back to his argument that people need to come together to define Phuket and devise a coherent way forward. The page could not be wiped clean, he said. “We have to paint a picture on a cloudy sheet. But better that than no painting at all.”

He added, “We have to be ready for some pain.”

There was surprisingly little dissent in the room. All appeared to agree that Phuket is in a mess, that everyone is pursuing his or her own interests without regard to their effect on others, that the authorities are reactive rather than proactive, and that the island is sorely in need of a plan.

All the participants went away with plenty to think about. Whether the discussion will result in people actually coming together to give Phuket direction remains to be seen.

But, warned Mr Wichit, “We should not wait until everything breaks.”

Image: The Phuket News

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Bangladesh is not a country one associates with international coastal tourism. But things may be about to change.  Located along the same coastline as Myanmar’s Ngapali beach, Cox’s Bazar is a seaside town and one of the most popular local tourist destinations in Bangladesh. It’s 120 kilometer coastline is also one of the longest uninterrupted beaches in the world. The government has plans for a 1165 acre coastal tourism zone and actively seeking investors and developers.

The government is moving ahead with establishing an exclusive tourist zone (ETZ) at Sabrung of Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar having modern facilities to rope in international tourists.

Bangladesh Cox Bazar Coastal Tourism

Economic gains for the investors and providing attractive entertainment for business entrepreneurs from home and abroad through the ETZ, being built under public-private partnership (PPP), are among the key objectives, officials and industry-insiders say.

The dos include upgrading Cox’s Bazar airport to an international one, completing the four-lane marine drive and ensuring electricity supply to the multimillion-dollar project.

He said a high-powered delegation headed by the tourism minister will go to Japan in search of Japanese investors.

Mr Khan observed many foreign investors who have invested in garment and manufacturing sectors are confident about the sectors. But tourism has not yet flourished as organised sector in Bangladesh for which foreign investors are not yet confident to make investment here.

“I hope within next one or two years, the tourism sector will create that confidence among the foreign investors as the government will develop necessary infrastructures and policy supports for the investors,” he added.

With Bangladesh’s growing interaction with Northeast and Eastern India, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan and deepening regional and sub-regional connectivity–and absence of such an ETZ in this sub-region–the proposed project is expected to draw a sizable crowd from the region as well.

Besides, the proposed Sabrung ETZ on the world’s longest unbroken sea beach eventually may be one of the single-largest and spectacular ETZ in the world with the facilities in place.

It would contribute to deepening regionalism in South Asia and opening of the region with Bangladesh and a recognized production-distribution-logistic hub connecting to South and Southeast Asia and beyond, experts say.

Cox Bazar Teknaf Coastal Beach Tourism Zone

The planned ETZ enjoys support of the Prime Minister as part of the government’s pledge to comprehensively develop tourism in Cox’s Bazar under the ‘Establishment of Exclusive Tourist Zone at Sabrung, Cox’s Bazar,’ project.

Around 1165 acres of land has been earmarked and a feasibility study has already been initiated by the PPP office under PMO.

Deputy Manager (Planning) of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) Ziaul Haque Howlader said strategically Sabrung is located at such a place where the investors will be economically benefited.

Because, he explained, the Asian Highway will connect Myanmar through Teknaf. Besides, the Cox’s Bazar airport will be upgraded as an international one with the financial assistance from China.

He said there is a lucrative opportunity for international sea cruise covering Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Also there is scope for developing international-standard water-based recreational and sports facilities.

“Moreover this ETZ will attract visitors from neighbouring landlocked areas like Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal and Southeast China because of the connectivity,” Mr Haque added.

The proposed ETZ may offer facilities like star hotels, water villa/beach villa/cottage, food court, nightclub, health club, spa, art/craft gallery, helipad, car parking, cable car, walkway with umbrella and RCC bench, watch tower, water sports facilities, marine life aquarium, indoor/outdoor games, golf course, convention hall, business centre, cyclone shelter, lifeguard, tourist police camp, bar, auditorium, amusement park, jetty for water vessel, water vessel for sea cruising, banking facilities, landscaping, swimming pool and so.

The Financial Express

Image: Taofiq Ahmed Shahin, Hasin Hayder

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We have upgraded to a new web look! Check us out here.

While remaining at the same web address the site has been re-titled ‘Asia Coastal Tourism Destination Development’ to closer represent the topic covered.

Our apologies if you encountered ‘surprises’ in your email, RSS or twitter feed during the transition.

With best regards

Asia Coastal

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Since starting this website we have curated and collected geographical location of relevant news event related to coastal destination development in Asia. This news is broadly categorized in terms of tourism development and associated infrastructure development, resort development, environment management (or lack of) and cruise port development. We thought we’d share this with the coastal development community here.

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puerto azul

The history of Puerto Azul in the Philippines reads like a much touted mega resort project out of the 1980s that never quite succeeded. At 3,300 hectares it’s almost three times the size of Mandalika in Lombok and about twice the size of Lagoi Bay in Bintan.  ABS-CBN news has more background here. Things are about to change for this master planned coastal resort destination that’s only 50km from Manila.

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This map shows hotel chains with their luxury and upscale brands across Asian resort destinations. Global brands included are by Starwood, Marriott, Four Seasons, Intercontinental, Club Med, Hilton/Conrad, Hyatt, Accor. Regional brands included are by Aman, Shangri-la, Banyan Tree, Anantara, Centara, Alila, GHM. We will be including other brands overtime.

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Lombok Tanjung Aan Beach  Tourism Solutions International
Tanjung Aan Beach, Lombok

This is a guest contribution from Eric Levy and Fred Patet of Tourism Solutions International.

With new airlines flying to Lombok, we expect international arrivals to boost Lombok tourism and to spur the development of new resorts. Lombok hotel supply should double to more than 4,500 rooms by 2022 supported by continued strong growth in visitor arrivals.

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Cambodia’s Kep and Thailand’s Hua Hin are South East Asia’s oldest beach resort towns. Kep was a well-know beach destination from the early 1900′s up till the 1960′s. Originally named La Perle de la Côte d’Agathe it was also home to the Cambodian King’s resort residence. It looks like Kep as a tourism destination will be coming back riding on Cambodia’s economic development.

This interview with Som Chenda, Director of the Cambodia’s Kep tourism department, has been re-produced from the The Phnom Penh Post.

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In July 2012 we published a post titled ‘Malaysia: Desaru Coast an international tourism destination?’.  In it we suggested that the tourism plan for Desaru did not fully take advantage of the unique location next to Singapore. If you are not familiar with the Desaru Coast destination project click on the weblink to find out more. At the end of the post we asked readers whether they thought Desaru Coast could be significantly scaled up as an international tourism destination.

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Anambas Natuna islands

Unless you’re a leisure diver, sailor or in the fisheries and oil & gas business you’ve probably never heard of the Anambas and Natuna islands. These are two separate and distinct group of islands 200km apart in the South China Sea and part of Indonesia’s Riau Province. CNN covered Anambas very briefly in 2012 when it got listed as one of Asia’s Top 5 Tropical Island Paradises. The largest island of the two groups, Natuna Besar, is almost three times the size of Singapore.

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Oasis of the Seas launch.
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas

The post from Skift / Miami Herald  ‘Cruise ships compete with ports for passenger dollars’ got me thinking – Are cruise ships more compelling ‘resort’ destinations compared to their on-land counterparts?

In earlier eras, on-ship attractions like casinos, swimming pools and the evening shows were common. Now you’ve got shopping streets and a wide range of attractions keeping guests entertained all day.

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Ninh Chu Bay 2
Click to enlarge

Ninh Chu Bay is a rapidly growing tourism destination offering a tremendous opportunity for resort and entertainment investment. Tourism demand is increasing much faster than supply; creating very high occupancy rates for resorts. Domestic tourism grew at over 30% in the first nine months of 2013 compared to same period year before. Land prices are still much lower than other locations, providing much value.

Located between Phan Thiet and Nha Trang – in the last two years the number of foreigners visiting Ninh Chu bay has gone from basically nothing to 500 per night. Pegas Touristik’s customers booked about 15,000 nights of resort rooms in one month (Jan 2014). That is about 70% occupancy rate for all the resorts from just one customer. Anh Duong executives, say they would bring many more customers to Ninh Chu Bay if more and better accommodations were available.

The bay has 7 resorts (all locally owned and operated), but none of them focus on the foreign market. They offer similar bad food, terrible service, and no activities or amenities. Pegas/Anh Duong is frustrated with the lack of attention given to their customers. A huge opportunity is just waiting for an investor that wants to provide good food, good service, and fun to both foreign customers and discerning Vietnamese. As we have seen in Nha Trang (The Sailing Club) and Phan Thiet (Coco Beach Resort, Victoria), first mover advantages exist if you can establish a brand and get into the guide books as “the place to go”. Now is that time for Ninh Chu Bay.

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Patong seafood

Food: local, variety, competitively priced and out-of-hotel dining experience.

An essential element of the tourism eco-system for any successful destination if you are targeting the Asian travel market.

Keep this in mind if you are master planning or developing any new resort destination. As the survey below states it’s the critical determining factor for travelers when selecting a destination.

Melaka Gateway development
Click on image to visit Melaka Gateway.

Beside the coastal real estate developments in Iskandar Malaysia here is another Malaysian coastal project in Melaka (Malacca) known as Melaka Gateway. Along with Mandalika, Bintan Resorts, Koh Rong, Vung Ro Bay this is another ambitious coastal development project in Southeast Asia at the moment.

What caught our attention here involves Royal Caribbean Cruises in the joint development of the cruise terminal.

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Do you have a question on coastal resort and destination development?

Do you have the knowledge to help answer reader’s questions?

From time to time we receive questions from readers beyond our capacity and knowledge to answer.

Rather than leave these questions unanswered we’ve come up with a solution – a Question & Answer page.

This is similar to Yahoo! Answers or Quora but specific to resort and coastal destination development in Asia.

Hopefully, this also starts a two-way conversation between readers.

To ask a question you need to enter an email address. Its understandable some prefer asking questions anonymously but unfortunately the software requires an email address verification. However, anyone can reply and answer anonymously.

To start off I’ve posted a question by one of our readers regarding resort development in Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago.

You can view the Question & Answer section here.

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This post is contributed by Mark Gwyther of MGT Management Consulting.



We pride ourselves in our accurate forecasts and predictions in The Vietnam Resort Report.  Two years ago we began forecasting rising occupancy rates in coastal resorts beginning in 2014, the huge influx of Chinese tourists, and warning of titanium mines polluting the Binh Thuan coastline.  Our ten-year forecast of incoming visitors to Vietnam – also made two years ago – is still tracking very closely to actuals.  So when we miss a prediction badly, we want to understand why.  Especially if it is big news in not only Vietnam, but throughout the region.  Vung Ro Petroleum announcing a $2.5 billion in financing deal for their Vung Ro Development was big news.

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Mandy Barker is a contemporary photographer whose work has been exhibited worldwide.

The images above are of oceanic debris recovered from the tsunami debris field of the North Pacific Ocean.

Mandy sent me an email requesting help in sourcing material for her new project. I thought that spreading the word here might help get a better response.


Calling All Soccer Balls!

I am the photographer, Mandy Barker, internationally renowned for the project, SOUP, and am now collecting marine debris Footballs (round soccer balls) that have been found on beaches/washed up, for my next project.

I am hoping to get footballs (even parts of will do) from as many different countries/beaches from around the world as possible.

If you saw a football washed up and would be willing to post it on to me in the UK, telling me where you found it (and could add an emailed pic of where you found it & date) I would be extremely grateful. I will of course pay all postage costs and in return send you a postcard of the final image which will include your ball!

If you can help or know someone who could, please email me: for my postal address.

Deadline for balls collected is end of March 2014.

My work aims to engage the public by combining the contradiction between initial aesthetic attraction with
the message of awareness about plastic marine pollution. To view my previous images please visit

All footballs will be greatly received & thank you for helping me to increase awareness of issue of marine pollution.

Mandy Barker Soccer Ball

Images: Mandy Barker Photography

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Had to smile when reading this.

Via Property Report

The level of foreign direct investment into property can be affected by real estate lawyers with attitudes that kill deals. Sellers lose on income, buyers lose on investment targets, and monies are not exchanged, thereby slowing the economic cycle in the real estate segment.

Just who do lawyers think they are, interfering in deals? How can cautious, balanced, educated legal advice be tempered with the willingness to enter into a transaction? The line between deal killer lawyers and deal maker lawyers can be a blurry one, but in this article, I offer my opinions based on experiences with lawyers from different countries and backgrounds, and from having recruited and trained lawyers in Asia for 10 years.

All lawyers like to think of themselves as good at what they do—after all they have legal training and a license—but what actually makes a lawyer passionate about real estate? When I recruit lawyers or deal with them on the ‘other side of a table’, I try to remain open- minded, bearing in mind the best interests of my client regardless of the personality of other lawyers. A deal is made enjoyable when a courteous and polite lawyer, simply doing their best for their client, is involved in a transaction. An understanding of each party’s background and expertise, and appreciation of opinion whether aligned or differing, is conducive to a smooth transaction.

There are many different ‘types’ of lawyers, but it is possible to loosely divide certain traits of real estate lawyers into sweepingly general categories:

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For readers with an interest in Vietnam.

Some investors are off loading. On the other hand Marc Faber, or Dr Doom of the Gloom Boom Doom report speaking at the Barron’s Roundtable, on Vietnam (and also Danang):

“I like Vietnam. The economy has had its troubles, and the market has seen a big decline. I want you to visualize Vietnam. [Stands up, walks to a nearby wall, and begins to draw a map of Vietnam with his hands.] Here’s Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, the border with China, and the Mekong River. And here in the middle, on the coast, is Da Nang.”

When a conventionally bearish investor has a bullish view it’s time to take a second look.

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Patong Beach Fantasea


We have been advocating on this site the importance a beach resort town plays in the overall attractiveness of a destination.

The poll below conducted by Phuket Gazette confirms this view. Surprisingly, not even the beaches alone comes close in terms of attractiveness. Next to Patong’s nightlife in terms of attractive is ‘Phuket’s unique mix of all the above’ – in other words Phuket’s entire tourism eco-system.

Now can you understand why Malaysians consider Langkawi ‘dead’ while the Thais are enjoying Phuket’s nightlife?

If you are responsible for tourism and destination development or are master planning one of Asia’s emerging resort locations keep this in mind. The next level of a destination’s competitive advantage will be more than beaches – it will stem from the attractiveness of the destination’s entire tourism eco-system with the core being a compelling beach resort town.

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Emerging destinations with greatest market access

Where are emerging growth areas for resort development in view of the epic growth of the Asian middle class? The tourism industry recognizes the opportunities but let’s take it a step further and ask: Are there prime locations for emerging resort development? Rather than following the herd we attempt to point out other possible less obvious destinations by flight-time-coverage analysis.

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Phuket Boat Lagoon

via Phuket Gazette

Boon Yongsakul is the Deputy Managing Director of Boat Development Company, the dynamic local entity building some of Phuket’s newest commercial projects that will help lift the island’s business infrastructure to new heights.

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Pattaya Mail posted a very interesting article titled ‘Asia luxury hospitality think-tank contemplates designs for the future’. Re-produced below.

At some point every market-aware hotel developer and operator, for competitive reasons, will require a well designed hotel. When every hotel in your competitive segment is as good as you in every aspect, and returns afforded by design diminish, what happens next?

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CDL Hospitality Trust Jumeirah Dhevanafushi
Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, Maldives

CDL Hospitality Trusts announced their acquisition of Jumeirah Dhevanafushi in the Maldives. See attachment below. Looking through their website reveals another property in the Maldives – the Angsana Velavaru. CDL acquired the Velavaru property in January 2013 and the Dhevanafushi property in December 2013.

Looking through the websites of two other Singapore publicly listed hospitality trusts – Ascendas Hospitality Trust and Far East Hospitality Trust – reveals that neither have pure resort assets.

So what’s CDL’s rationale for these resort acquisitions and venturing beyond city hotels?

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Came across below Phnom Penh Post article from 2012.

In Demand and Supply of Asia’s Tourism Coastline we commented that Cambodia “has a very limited coastline (next shortest coastline after Singapore), a high land-mass-to-coastline (3rd highest) plus high population-to-coastline ratio (3rd highest). Cambodia also has the second highest position in terms of international-arrivals-to-coastline. Question is: will we witness an explosive growth in coastal tourism development as Cambodia develops and ramps up its international tourism marketing?”

This combination of limited coastline, limited number of offshore islands, Angkor Wat, more ideal weather, growing internal economy, emerging Asia middle class, is a potent mix for Cambodia’s coastal tourism development.

It’s not surprising why investors snapped up Cambodia’s islands (while Indonesia goes looking for investors to develop its small islands).

The next question is, will Cambodia be executing its coastal development on a larger tourism strategy, thereby optimizing on scale and quality, or along a more conventional approach seen so far in the region?

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