How a ‘crazy’ man brought Dusit kind of luxury to Davao

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The astonishing swimming pool at The Beach Club, part of the Dusit Thani at Lubi Plantation Resort.

By Marifi S. Jara
Mindanao Bureau Chief

TORRE LORENZO Development Corp. (TLDC) President and Chief Executive Officer Tomas P. Lorenzo likes to tell the story of how most everyone thought him “buang,” meaning crazy in Visayan, when he first started talking about developing top-end facilities in Davao City for business and leisure travelers.

That was about six years ago, before the city came into the spotlight being the President’s hometown.

At that time, several of the country’s major developers have set foot in Davao, doing mainly condominium and commercial projects.

Mr. Lorenzo’s inkling on the potential of an upscale development came from frequent trips between Manila and Davao, where the Lorenzo family has roots and diverse business interests.

“Flights were always full, and I was thinking, I don’t know these people, who are all these people?” he said in an interview at the new Dusit D2 Davao before the launching ceremony on Sept. 6.

Mr. Lorenzo said an informal market review indicated it was mostly businessmen who have taken on the investment opportunities in the country’s south as well as professional Filipinos working overseas who have the money to purchase property and spend for holidays.

“That’s where this came out,” he narrates.

TLDC, after exploring various options, forged a partnership with Dusit International.

The joint venture has borne not just the 120-room Dusit D2 Hotel, but also a linked 174-unit Dusit Thani Residences, a serviced condominium-hotel now in the final stages of completion, and the soon-to-be branded Dusit Thani at Lubi Plantation Resort on a private island in nearby Compostela Valley province.

A fourth hotel, a Dusit Princess brand, is also in the pipeline.

Dusit International Chief Operating Officer Lim Boon Kwee said working with the TLDC team has been “a pleasure” because their captain is a “very passionate developer.”

Torre Lorenzo Development Corp. President and CEO Tomas P. Lorenzo — BW PHOTO

Davao City Councilor Mabel Sunga-Acosta, delivering the mayor’s message during the Dusit D2 launch, said having another international hotel brand strengthens the city’s campaign to become a “major hub” for the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions segment.

“You are not buang after all,” she tells Mr. Lorenzo.

Compostela Valley Governor Jayvee Tyron L. Uy said the Lubi resort, which is under his jurisdiction, is a “trendsetter” for the province that is also in the midst of rebranding as Davao de Oro in line with its program to attract investors and tourists.

“It means a lot to us, especially when you talk about creating economies, it will bring economic growth… and at the same time promoting tourism in the province,” he said in an interview with BusinessWorld at the Lubi resort.

The Dusit Thani, which is on the site of a former coconut island plantation, is still a work in progress but several villas are now ready for occupancy alongside The Beach Club, which is open for day-trippers.

“This is not your P50 (per person entrance fee) type of resort, which I am sure we have all experienced,” Mr. Lorenzo said. “Think Dusit Maldives.”

Christopher Wichlan, general manager of the Dusit properties in the Davao Region, said what they have now is a unique product cluster consisting of an “exclusive destination” and “value for money.”

The Beach Club, when fully completed before the end of the year, will include a dive center that would allow guests to explore the waters around the island that has been kept as a marine sanctuary for 30 years.

For staying guests, “natural barriers” will be set up to create a private space with exclusive facilities.

“The way we’ve invested here (all the Davao properties), with all the technologies and security is to make sure that everyone has the confidence to come here,” Mr. Wichlan said.

Mr. Lorenzo said the bigger commitment behind the Davao ventures has been to contribute to the growth of Mindanao, the Philippine’s vast southern islands that continue to address both real and perceived concerns on peace and security.

“I am from Mindanao… the idea here is developing Mindanao.”