The Next Resort

The Next Resort

It’s summer and the time to crank out the summer thrillers at our favourite resorts

Despite the heat and humidity, hoards of tourists, unruly children and any other inconvenience that may come with the season, the personal value contained in the weeks between early-June and September is a nearly universal constant. Our brains may say autumn colours are beautiful, winter is connective and spring smacks of renewal, but summer remains the time of year most of us associate with memorable vacations, exotic destinations and relaxing around barbeque and with friends and/or family — which often leads to events that are the foundation of a “great story” for years to come.

Resorts come in all shapes and sizes, at all budgets and in all moods. They can be tacky, luxurious, family-friendly or enlightening. It’s because of those various elements that resort investments have never really lost favour for purchasers. After all owning a home or a branded residence can go a long way toward killing three birds with the proverbial one stone. And properties in the tropics can do it almost year-round.

There is no shortage of options in Asia-Pacific for investors considering dabbling in the vacation home market, and two in particular — Sukha Samui in Thailand and Song Saa in Cambodia — could be the right fit for investors seeking total wellness or simply a touch of tranquillity.

Sukha Samui, located in the hills around Angthong on perpetually popular Koh Samui, is attempting to bring the burgeoning wellness travel trend, hot among young professionals right now, to investors. Wellness travel is by no means a new concept, but Sukha Samui will be the first branded resort available for sale in Southeast Asia. Occupancy is expected to be high due to Sukha’s mid-range prices for travellers in an area overwhelmed with luxury resorts. Create Asia Land, the project developer and manager, is projecting returns between 7 and 9 percent per year over five years for the 26 studio, one- and twobedroom suites due to the exploding wellness market. “We are seeing evidence that people want to spend their holidays in meaningful ways, ways that have positive impact on the environment, community, and by extension, rejuvenate and enhance the body, mind and spirit,” said Tingting Peng, Create Asia’s director.

Sukha has established itself as one of the region’s premier wellness and lifestyle communities, and the activities and amenities that define its global network will be found at Sukha Samui. Investors are entitled to three weeks per year (with no blackout dates) in the fully managed, hassle-free development. Sukha Samui will feature a spa, infinity pool, two yoga pavilions and all day wellness dining among a host of other facilities and programmes suitable for group, corporate and personal retreats. Prices range from THB4.8 million to 19.7 million.

If you feel well already and just want a place to get away from it all in — alone or with guests — Cambodia is the regional up-and-comer most worth a look.

Twenty-seven villas on Song Saa will be ready late this year on the private island in the Koh Rong Archipelago, just about a one hour flight from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh or 20 minutes by speedboat from Sihanoukville. Developed by Brocon Investment, Song Saa is the second of Brocon’s projects — the first being colonial flats in Phnom Penh — but it is unlikely to be the last. Brocon CEO Rory Hunter is committed to participating in Cambodia’s economic resurgence, and he’s committed to doing it the right way. Song Saa was developed with an eye toward environmental and social sensitivity and doing something a little different. Active in the local community in education, public infrastructure, conservation and employment, Hunter is happy to answer critics that would suggest leaving well enough alone. He sees an upside to controlled tourism when asked if the world needs more luxury resorts. “We’ve seen the damage over-fishing and deforestation has done. The only industries are fishing and logging, so without tourism, an alternative source of income, the whole place is going to be decimated,” he argues. With a triple bottom line approach (people, planet, profit), Hunter believes, “On a small scale tourism can be a change for good. We would never use ‘green’ or ‘eco’ in our vernacular … It’s a business strategy. Our approach is scientific. It’s not marketing-led.”

A team of five-star boutique resort veterans will be managing Song Saa’s 25 overwater, beach and rainforest villas and the centrepiece over-water restaurant and lounge. Every other facility you would expect from a luxury resort is represented too: an infinity pool in addition to units with private pools, a spa and wellness centre, as well as a diverse range of educational and ecological programmes for guests and locals. Song Saa has been releasing units for sale in phases since planning began in 2009, and response has been strong. Currently 6 units remain, and Brocon is projecting yields of up to 8 percent over five years on properties starting at US$600,000. Key to the project, and what will set Song Saa apart from its peers, is the lack of conflict between the various partners in any development.

“There will, perhaps, be the perception this is just another resort until you get there. A lot of the smaller operators get lumped in the same bag because they work with developers, they compromise on budgets, they use the same architects,” Hunter explains. “The difference here is that everything’s been done in house: we’re the developer, the designer and the operator. We feel that’s our biggest strength and that we’ve created something unique and special.”