Rich foreigners’ playground a tourism attraction

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is set to be transformed into a rich foreigners’ playground of resort and spa with other leisure properties when the Second Sabah Tourism Master Plan is launched by year end to clarify and define the coastal potential for tourism particularly on the West Coast.

It might just be the boost needed for the success of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) campaign here as expatriates rank Malaysia the 19th most desirable country to live and settle down after Switzerland and Singapore which were ranked first and second due to good law and order.

“This is the optimal time to acquire beachfront lands,” said a tourism consultant. According to Christopher Boyd, it is still cheap to obtain resort lands in Sabah with prices around RM10 to RM12 per square foot.

The entry of Alila Resorts to Sabah helps to pull other top players in the industry particularly Club Med, now under Mainland Chinese interest, and Aman Resorts, to seriously look into setting up operations here, given the state’s natural beauty.

The growth in such leisure tourism sector is going to provide many employment opportunities for the younger generations affording them the means to pay for their own housing needs.

As an example of what is to come, with strong Singaporean lead in the city centre’s largest resort – the Sutera Harbour Resort which changed hands recently to Singapore Exchange-listed GSH Corp Ltd having acquired a 77.5 per cent stake in Sutera Harbour Group Sdn Bhd, the owner and operator of the Sutera Harbour Resort vide its wholly-owned subsidiary, Borneo Ventures Pte Ltd.

The Sutera Harbour Resort comprises two five-star hotels – the 500-room Pacific Sutera and 456-room The Magellan Sutera; the 104-berth Sutera Harbour Marina and Country Club; an award-winning 27-hole championship golf course designed by Graham Marsh; and a host of fine dining and recreational facilities.

In the past, GSH, through two of its wholly-owned subsidiaries Ocean View Ventures Pte Ltd and Ocean View Point Pte Ltd, also acquired two separate land parcels totalling nearly 10ha or 25.2 acres (1.1 million sq. ft.) within the 154ha Sutera Harbour property for future luxury condominium development with estimated gross development area of over 2.5 million sq. ft.

GSH is a property development company with interests in China and Malaysia and is headed by Sam Goi, the executive chairman of Tee Yih Jia Group.

Tee Yih Jia is a global food and beverage group with operations in Singapore, Malaysia, the United States, Europe and China.

“Kota Kinabalu is a rising property hotspot in Malaysia and we see robust potential for prime real estate in the city, fuelled by strong tourism growth from South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and China,” said GSH chief executive Gilbert Ee.

“The number of visitors from these countries is growing exponentially and accounts for more than half of total international arrivals to Sabah, with more than a third of them from Hong Kong and China,” he said.

“Apart from tourism, the Sabah has experienced strong gross domestic product growth recent, thanks to its key sectors of agriculture and oil and gas. With such strong fundamentals, we see great potential in Kota Kinabalu’s luxury hospitality sector as well as premier resort homes.” Ee added. He said Sutera Harbour and its surrounding properties were positioned to benefit from this growth.

“Its location is within 10 minutes from the city and yet provides a quiet, exclusive and secure ocean-front property with spectacular scenery. “This is a rare find anywhere in Asia and we are excited at the opportunities that this property will bring to GSH,” Ee added.

Sutera Harbour Resort group president Datuk Edward Ong Han Nam, the founder and developer of Sutera Harbour, said he was excited with the deal as it would propel the resort to the next level of tourism development in Sabah.

The RM700 million transaction for Sutera Harbour Resort involves GSH subscribing for RM250 million in ordinary shares and RM260 million in preference shares, as well as another RM190 million in preference shares to be injected via a joint investment by an investment vehicle of GSH’s Executive Chairman, Sam Goi – TYJ Group Pte Ltd.

Sutera Harbour Resort’s luxury hotels, marina and country club assets sit on 384 acres of prime sea-front property in Kota Kinabalu. Image if there are 10 or more of such resort along the West Coast of Sabah with varying differentiation features and offerings.

The spirit behind the Second Sabah Tourism Master Plan hopes to catalyst this potential to reality.