Escape Cameron Highlands is set to be the largest Escape theme park in Malaysia and will be constructed at a heady 220 metre elevation across a 24 hectare valley. The first phase of the project is slated to open in 2023 at an investment of around RM15 million (US$3.6 million). One of the main attractions in this initial phase will be an artificial ski slope.
Two or possibly three further phases over the next ten years will bring the project to completion. The overall spend is likely to exceed RM100 million (US$24 million), according to Sim Choo Kheng, CEO and founder of Sim Leisure Group.
“Unlike other theme parks, Escape adopts the strategy of development in multiple phases to continuously add the novelty factor by introducing new attractions every year,” says Sim in TTG Asia. “As such, the project will continuously morph to evolve into something bigger and better, while still retaining the flavour and ethos for which the Escape brand is known.”
Five European villages included in design
The design features five themed villages at different elevations. All are based on European destinations, with an Iberian village at the bottom of the site and an Alpine village at the top. In between there will be British, Balkan, and Nordic villages. All will feature themed accommodation and F&B options alongside traditional European activities.
Escape also plan to capitalise on the site’s geography to elevate its signature Gravityplay and Adventureplay games.
Sustainability and nature-focused tourism key
Escape Cameron Highlands promises to preserve the natural habitat as far as possible, in line with its eco-mission. Sim built Escape on a deliberately low-tech model, founded on happy memories of his childhood – climbing trees, splashing around in streams and playing with simple toys like spinning tops. Escape aims to connect people to nature, while teaching life lessons such as problem solving, team bonding and overcoming fears.
“The future of global tourism will be about family fun in the form of wellness,” said Nancy Shukri, minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, speaking at the virtual signing ceremony between Sim Leisure and Hektar Muda Assets which owns the site. “I predict an exponential growth in demand for nature-based tourism worldwide. Malaysia will set itself apart from its regional neighbours by promoting clean, healthy, family-oriented tourism. We will capitalise on our abundant natural beauty heading towards this new direction.”
Keeping costs down with a low-tech model
The low-tech business model has served Sim Leisure well during the pandemic. As Sim explained to the Malay Mail, the company was able to keep its maintenance costs low. “You will not find any roller coasters or drop towers in our parks,” said Sim. “Mechanical rides like roller coasters require burdensome operation and high maintenance costs. We were able to operate at a mere fraction as compared to the cost of many amusement parks worldwide.”
Expansion of the Escape brand
The new park will be the latest addition to the Escape brand. The Sim Leisure Group already runs Escape Penang, and Escape Challenge in Petaling Jaya.
In addition, Escape is set to expand into more indoor sites. The company has been approached by malls keen to build indoor theme parks as the rise of retailtainment continues unabated. “What’s a better way to give a new lease of life to shopping malls by building indoor theme parks so that consumers can have fun and do their shopping errands in the future?” asks Sim.
Sim’s Escape brand is also set to expand into Sri Lanka and China. “China’s leisure industry has fully recovered from the pandemic and many of its theme parks are enjoying a 30 per cent surge in visitor numbers as compared to in 2019,” says Sim in the Malay Mail. “We will be building a theme park that resembles Penang’s outdoor park and something similar to the Paradigm Mall’s indoor theme park.” In Sri Lanka, the planned Escape park will be the first of its kind. Plans are being delayed at present due to the pandemic but Escape is confident of a vibrant future in these markets.
In 2019 Escape entered the Guinness World Records for the world’s longest water slide. The slide stretches to 1,111 metres (3,645 feet). So far it retains its title.