Top 3 emerging central lifestyle districts in Southeast Asia’s urbanising resort real estate markets

Over the years developers captured the trend of property buyers who first came as tourists and later became end-users either full-time or as vacation homes

The pandemic, in many ways, was only an accelerator of changes in work, life, and travel patterns, spurred by technology. StockFoto.Touch/Shutterstock

Once upon a time, real estate was all about heading downtown amidst soaring CBD’s (Central Business Districts). Next came the push to the suburbs, where single-family homes and commercial properties turned into malls. Push into 2024 and the world has somehow turned upside down with COVID-19 accelerating many trends along with an increasingly volatile landscape of geopolitical events across the globe.

Enter the age of global citizens and cross-border migration. How these trends are impacting real estate is nowhere more visible than in Southeast Asia. Drilling down even further let’s talk about three key island resort areas that are now emerging as ‘Central Lifestyle Districts’  (CLD), which is a 2024 pivot from what we commonly know as CBDs.

The global pandemic, in many ways, was only an accelerator of change in our work, life, and travel patterns, mainly spurred by technology. Looking at the Zoom Boom, work-from-home, and instant nomads period, suddenly a gravitational pull to lifestyle quality came to light as we teetered on the edge of apocalyptic doom. We survived, but our world changed.

At C9 Hotelworks, we have carefully researched how these changes are reflected in real estate demand, and our conclusions are based on people and not products. We have looked carefully at how many of Southeast Asia’s resort islands are being transformed by tourism dependency into international communities or to be more blunt ‘safe havens.’

Six key demand generators that are pushing a new nomadic class of global citizens are –geopolitical events, urban flight, lifestyle or quality of life, early retirement in the wake of a rapidly graying population across the world, the proliferation of international private schools, and lastly a return of investment into real estate in the post-crypto crash.

Let’s start our look at the Top 3 Southeast Asia tourism islands where Central Lifestyle Districts are evolving and real estate transplanting tourism as a key economic indicator:

First up, is Thailand’s resort island of Phuket where Asia’s branded residences were born with Amanpuri and later Banyan Tree in the late 1980s and into the 90s. Over the years, developers captured the trend of property buyers who first came as tourists and later became end-users, either relocating full-time or serving as vacation homes.

Most notable here is the soaring demand on the west coast Bangtao area which is now pushing inland and is starting to be known as the Thonglor of Phuket, a reference to one of Bangkok’s most trendy districts. Banyan Tree founder KP Ho has launched a USD2 billion international community known as Laguna Lakelands with over 5,000 units plan, and the private fund associated with Thailand’s Central Group, CG Capital, is developing The Standard Residences back of the global boho chic hospitality brand.

Over to Bali, past Seminyak into Batu Balig, Canggu, and Brawah, these areas have grown exponentially during and post-COVID-19. One of the most notable projects has been the Nuanu creative community in Tabanan. The catchment area has seen a rise of digital nomads, entrepreneurs, and global citizens buying property as full-time and part-time homes.

Last is Mactan island, Cebu in the Philippines. With an international airport on its doorstep, the growth in high-rise towers along the coastline is redefining the area into a Gold Coast-type trajectory. Many of the country’s leading developers such as Rockwell, Megaworld, Ayala, Robinsons Land, and AppleOne represented the sheer critical mass of real estate that is shifting the once tourism-magnet into a full-blown lifestyle district.

Looking ahead to the growth prospects for these Central Lifestyle Districts and how sustainable the growth is, you only have to view how the potential market size of prospective buyers has now grown to encompass a far larger, volatile world and how migration and new international communities will be a fact of the future ahead. Do the math and understand how lifestyle is now the new mantra of a movement of property buyers across borders.

About Bill Barnett

Bill Barnett — a globally recognised hospitality, tourism, and real estate advisor — is the founder and managing director of Asia-based C9 Hotelworks and esteemed member of the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Greater Niseko) Judging Panel.

In addition to being a leading consultant, he is a frequent speaker at industry events and conferences.  With over 30 years’ experience in the Asia Pacific region, he has an extensive background in hotel operations, development, and asset management. His past employment highlights include Senior Corporate roles at international hotel chains and publically listed companies. Bill is considered to be one of the foremost industry experts in the hotel residences sector.  To date, Bill is the author of four books on travel, property, and hospitality under the titles of Slave to the Bean, Collective Swag, It Might Get Weird and Last Call. 

For more information, email: [email protected].