by Judith Rubin
Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) has seen many an opening and soft opening over the past few years. According to the Singapore Tourism Board, there have been 12 major launches in 3 years at the 49-hectare, integrated resort. But RWS distinguished the opening in November 2012 of Marine Life Park, a primary anchor of the property, as a resort-wide Grand Opening.
Readers may recall the Sentosa Island of the 1990s, which pales in comparison to today’s RWS behemoth. The Genting Group-owned RWS is a model of successful, interdependent attraction and hospitality development – family-friendly, with a casino driving its economic engine – and its influence can be seen throughout the industry but particularly in Asia and the Middle East. In addition to Marine Life Park, RWS is home to Universal Studios Singapore, the Maritime Experiential Museum, Crane Dance, Lake of Dreams, six hotels, and much more.
At the 2012 IAAPA Attractions Expo, Serene Tan, Regional Director, Americas at the Singapore Tourism Board, pointed out Singapore’s inherent advantages: “Singapore is a good place to do business – we all speak English plus a second language. There’s a lot of diverse culture: it’s an immigrant state with many festivals, all kinds of food, and strong in entertainment attractions. We have one of the best zoos – and the first ‘night zoo’ in the world [Singapore’s Night Safari, part of Wildlife Reserves Singapore].”
Also growing is Science Centre Singapore, referred to by Tan as an “important stakeholder in the tourism landscape.” Tan reports that the science center has plans to expand in the short- mid- and long-term. Short term: a $30 M investment will add a virtual aquarium and more activity to draw young people.
Green values are enforced: Tan reports that 70% of Singapore has been kept green and that new leisure developments always contain a garden or park component, whether it’s the Sky Park 57 stories up at Marina Bay Sands, or the slightly more conventional Gardens by the Bay, a 250-acre, waterfront public garden that Tan refers to as the “Central Park of Asia.”
Since opening in June 2012, Gardens by the Bay has drawn special notice and praise for its 18 “Supertrees.” Striking in appearance, the Supertrees are vertical garden structures, 25-50 meters high and covered in climbing plants. During the day, the Supertrees’ large canopies provide tree-like shade and shelter. At night, they come alive with lighting, projected media and a specially-composed light and sound show known as the OCBC Garden Rhapsody. Eleven of the Supertrees boast sustainable features that enable them to function something like real trees, harvesting solar energy via photovoltaic cells and exhausting air from greenhouses. Two of the Supertrees are connected by an aerial walkway, and the largest houses a treetop bistro.
Infrastructure is another of Singapore’s strong points. Tan noted the capacity of the airport (up to 60M passengers) a convenient mass transit system and relatively inexpensive taxis, plus density. “You can see it all in a short amount of time.” Access will be further enhanced with the doubling of berth capacity at the international cruise terminal, enabling more cruise ships to dock.
One of Singapore’s top tourist markets is India, whose people Tan describes as “affluent travelers with great affinity for the island.” China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Europe (especially the UK) and the US are all significant markets as well.
All these new attractions will provide plenty of interest when the attractions industry meets in Singapore June 4-7 for the 2013 IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo at Marina Bay Sands.
In nearby Malaysia, the attractions market is also simmering with new brands and properties. Themed Attractions Malaysia executives MD/CEO Tunku Dato’ Ahmad Burhanuddin, CFO Vallo Mutto and VP Branding and Group Communications Waikuan Wong report that the government-supported push for tourism development in the commonwealth, especially in the Southern corridor, is strong. Malaysia, they point out, is well positioned to serve both locals and travelers. It receives many tourists from China, India and the Middle East, has a sizable Chinese community, a growing middle class and easy proximity to Singapore and Bangkok, and everybody speaks English plus one other language.
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. Their 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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