We caught up with executives from Themed Attractions Malaysia while at the IAAPA Attractions Expo in November: MD/CEO Tunku Dato’ Ahmad Burhanuddin, CFO Vallo Mutto and VP Branding and Group Communications Waikuan Wong. From them, we learned some details about the government-supported push for tourism development in the commonwealth, especially in the Southern corridor. As Malaysia receives many tourists from China, India and the Middle East, and has a sizable Chinese community, a growing middle class and easy proximity to Singapore and Bangkok, and everybody speaks English plus one other language, it is well-favored to serve both locals and travelers.
Focusing on jump-starting things with a family-friendly selection of attractions, the company sought out top entertainment design firms and suppliers: The Hettema Group, BRC Imagination Arts, Thinkwell, Forrec, WhiteWater West and Pro Slide have all contributed – and top brands: Legoland Malaysia (Legoland Malaysia opened September 2012); KidZania (KidZania Malaysia opened February 2012); The Little Big Club and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town (both at Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park, opened in late 2012). Other human and company resources have included Bain & Co. for master planning, Darrell Metzger, Chairman of the Themed Attractions Malaysia Executive Committee, Steve Peet former COO of Village Roadshow, and Philip Whittaker, as chief marketing officer. approach has succeeded and tourism has grown 10% year over year.
With the market of children under age 12 and their families now reasonably well covered, a new surge of development will emphasize the natural beauty and culture of the area, with Leisure Tour Asia initiative aiming to embrace all five senses with food, arts & culture, heritage attractions, seaside resorts and increased leveraging of holidays. Ride parks are also forecast in the future. The group also has the license to open KidZania Singapore in 2015. Just 15 minutes away to the South by bridge, Singapore is seen as a complementary region in terms of tourism, especially in terms of its gaming attractions.
Tunku Dato reported that Malaysia’s prime minister as well as its people are quite happy with the development trend, which includes hotels and residential complexes. “It’s a long-awaited thing,” he said. “We had no theme parks for a very long time. The community is very hungry for it and attendance has been beyond all expectations. And with all the new development it brings in its wake, we are creating jobs directly and indirectly. We are fostering a local industry.”
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