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Continued demand for 'authentic and personalised' travel, says One&Only Desaru Coast's Jérôme Pichon

Samantha Chiew
Samantha Chiew • 5 min read
Continued demand for 'authentic and personalised' travel, says One&Only Desaru Coast's Jérôme Pichon
One&Only's brand promise is “deeply rooted” in its resorts’ locales, as well as an adventurous approach to curating travel experiences, says Jérôme Pichon. (Pictures: One&Only)
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Just across the Causeway, a mere hour’s drive past Woodlands Checkpoint, lies a hidden gem: a resort tucked away from the city’s hustle and bustle, offering tranquillity and peace, yet conveniently close for a quick getaway. 

Set against Malaysia’s southeastern shoreline in an area known as the “village of palms”, One&Only Desaru Coast sits between a lush rainforest and the sweeping views of the South China Sea. This 128-acre resort, designed by award-winning Kerry Hill Architects, embodies the essence of its surroundings, offering guests an immersive holiday experience.

The man in charge of keeping this experience alive day to day is Jérôme Pichon, the resort’s general manager. Formerly the general manager at Arts Club Dubai, Pichon has been with One&Only Desaru Coast since its opening in 2022. The hospitality veteran’s career has brought him worldwide, from Rwanda to Bahrain to Malaysia.

Staying relevant amid a sea of hospitality offerings has become an increasingly big challenge, especially in an area like Desaru Coast, where Anantara Resort & Villas, Hard Rock Hotel and The Westin also have a presence. It’s no longer enough to have beachfront views or an infinity pool — travellers are looking for much more.

Options sits down with Pichon to get his thoughts on trends in tourism, changing consumer tastes, and how One&Only is adapting to captivate this evolving market.

See also: Koh Lanta, where adventure meets luxury

Spice of life, pretty please

One major shift Pichon has noticed in travellers’ preferences nowadays is an increased focus on group travel, especially among multigenerational families. He points out that the distance created between loved ones during the pandemic resulted in a pent-up desire to spend more time together. 

See also: Retreat to the great outdoors

“Families and friends who have not seen each other in recent years book stays to reconnect and celebrate special occasions together,” says Pichon. From the little ones taking their first steps to the grand dames celebrating their 80th birthdays, travellers prioritise extended stays with their loved ones.”

From a hotel’s viewpoint, larger groups mean a demand for more spacious accommodations. Travellers seek bigger suites and villas to comfortably accommodate their families while maintaining privacy and enjoying a luxurious stay. “Our resort is very well-placed to meet this demand,” he adds, highlighting the four-bedroom Villa One and the Grand Pool Suites, which come with an outdoor lap pool.

Pichon also observes a growing need to cater to a diverse range of needs. “Authentic and personalised experiences continue to be significant for our luxury guests, who do not seek material goods as much as unique experiences and memories during their travels,” he says.

One&Only Desaru Coast has introduced amenities such as padel courts. Pichon notes that the resort is the first in Malaysia to offer two professional padel courts, allowing athletically inclined guests to try a new sport while on holiday. 

For young families, One&Only’s KidsOnly children’s club offers “a daily programme of age-appropriate, complimentary activities centred around craft, nature, science and exploration”, says Pichon. Meanwhile, those seeking to immerse themselves in Malaysian culture can sign up for silat classes with a resident silat master.

For more lifestyle, arts and fashion trends, click here for Options Section

Travellers in their forties and under form a larger slice of the pie in today’s tourism landscape. Concerning the preferences among these young tourists, Pichon says: “Increasingly affluent millennials and Gen Z travellers love short staycations closer to home, and they gravitate towards Instagrammable, culturally rich itineraries in unexplored destinations.”

He highlights that wellness “still influences the travel experience”. “Luxury travellers remain incredibly keen to maintain their well-being throughout their stay,” he says. “Our health-conscious guests are in search of rest and recovery from their daily lives and want not only to look good but to eat well while on vacation.”

The newly unveiled One&Only Spa, a collaboration with luxury skincare brand Augustinus Bader, is intended to capitalise on this trend. 

“Guests can now look forward to a unique selection of face and body rituals, each created in collaboration with the Augustinus Bader team and available exclusively at One&Only Desaru Coast and nowhere else in the world,” says Pichon. The spa also offers in-house treatments, crafted “in celebration of Malaysia’s multicultural heritage”, he adds. 

Offering a different experience

For Pichon, what One&Only brings to the hospitality industry is a brand promise that is “deeply rooted” in its resorts’ locales, as well as an adventurous approach to curating travel experiences — all this, “complemented with the highest of attention to detail, ultra-personalised service and unrivalled creativity”.

“No matter which One&Only resort you travel to … we place our discerning guests in the heart of each location to uncover exceptional experiences and authentic encounters,” he says. He adds that the Desaru Coast resort similarly delivers on this promise as guests are led to “explore the unspoilt landscapes, local wildlife and cultural wonders of Desaru Coast”.

As the industry continues to evolve, One&Only is not resting on its laurels. In Desaru Coast, Pichon speaks on a slate of upcoming changes to keep the resort fresh and exciting while increasing its integration and impact on the local community.

“Looking ahead for our resort, guests can expect refreshed new offerings for the family, especially for the young ones, and more sustainability-focused activities to positively impact the environment and community we operate in,” he says. He adds that One&Only’s private homes are “also in the pipeline”, and that these will “combine unparalleled craftsmanship with dedicated One&Only service and exclusive privileges for homeowners”.  

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