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clock 11-03-2014
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Why Malacca Could Be the Next Big Thing After Iskandar Malaysia

Pete Wong is the founder of Awarna Media with offices in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and around the region. He made his foray into property on both sides of the Causeway since the early days - when Orchard Road was still known as District 9 and Mont' Kiara was mostly inhabited by monkeys. Besides travelling around Asia on business, he finds time to write about the property scene, often advising investors with local insights. Pete is also the editorial consultant for Building & Investment magazine and one of the judges for the SEA Property Awards.

Pete commented, If you find investing in local properties too daunting and Iskandar Malaysia overhyped, you may want to check out Malacca.

During a recent visit to the historic city, I was surprised by its transformation. A few years ago, there weren't many tall buildings and one could basically drive through town and see all there is to see in less than 15 minutes.

Now, not only are there more buildings, well-known retailers are moving in and the number of tourists has shot up significantly.

New hotels like Hatten are running at close to full occupancy despite it being just over a year old. Familiar shops like Esprit, MNG and Charles & Keith are nearby and you might get the feeling like you are in suburban Toa Payoh or Tampines. However, the difference here in Malacca is that your hotel rates and food prices are easily less than half of what you have to pay in Singapore, thanks to the strength of the dollar.

One developer credited with transforming downtown Malacca from a sleepy town into a respectable retail hub is Hatten Group. The developer first came into prominence when it took over an abandoned project and re-launched it as Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall in 2006. Since then, they have added a string of other projects including retail malls, hotels and condominiums, mostly around Malacca.

While Johor is one big state and getting from one location to another is a long drive, most of Malacca's attractions are within easy reach. Driving from the city centre to the ancient ruins of A'Famosa, for example, is only 15 minutes.

Malacca also has a killer advantage -- a UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The only other place in Malaysia with a similar status is Penang's Georgetown.

Combine the city's historical significance with its compact size, throw in famous food and restaurants at bargain prices and a growing retail scene - and what you get is a winning formula.

In fact, hotels are not building fast enough to accommodate the exponential growth in tourist arrivals, especially during peak season. Located almost midway between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, the city attracts holidaymakers and foreign tourists from both cities.

If you were to invest in Malacca with a view to tap on the increasing number of tourists, you may be getting better returns than anywhere else in Malaysia.

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