The development of major theme parks has had significant impacts on the nature and dynamics of U.S., Japanese and European tourism destination development.
High quality destination theme parks often become the anchor for domestic and international tourism. Over time, certain markets can grow to accommodate multiple theme parks, becoming multi-theme park destination hubs.
By Edward P. Shaw (left), Associate Principal (Entertainment + Culture Advisors)
The most established and best known examples of international theme park hub markets with multiple theme park gates are in Southern California and Central Florida anchored in both regions by Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and LEGOLAND parks, among others.
With the recent opening of Universal Studios Singapore (2010) and LEGOLAND Malaysia (2012), Singapore and the adjacent region of Southern Malaysia are in the process of developing a multi-theme park hub in Southeast Asia. The region meets the three primary criteria necessary to develop a nucleus of large-scale entertainment development: 1) significant market scale and demographics; 2) tourism destination assets; and 3) government support and infrastructure development.
1. Significant market scale and demographics
The combined income qualified resident market (population able to afford an international standard attraction visit) for Singapore/Southern Malaysia is just under 10 million. Singapore had a resident population of approximately 5.3 million, while Southern Malaysia had an income qualified population of 4.5 million in 2012.
The combined leisure tourist market for Singapore/Southern Malaysia is estimated at 15.7 million. The Singapore tourism market has been growing rapidly in recent years, fueled by the development of the two new Integrated Resorts (IRs) at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) and Marina Bay Sands (MBS) in 2009/10. Singapore received 14.4 million international visitors in 2012, of which an estimated 10.5 million traveled for leisure.
Similarly, international tourism to Malaysia has been growing rapidly as the Malaysian Government embarks on a number of strategies to raise the region’s profile as a tourism destination. Southern Malaysia (Johor) received an estimated 5.7 million domestic overnight visitors in 2012 (4.2 million were for leisure). In addition, an estimated 1.1 million international overnight visitors (1.0 million leisure) came to Southern Malaysia in 2012, not including visitors from Singapore.
2. Tourism destination assets
In Singapore, Universal Studios, which received nearly 4 million attendees in 2012, forms an attraction area in combination with the other attractions at RWS. Overall, the Singapore attraction set is dominated by small-scale attractions with the exception of the two IRs. The combination of the three attractions at Mandai creates another attraction anchor area with the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, and newly opened River Safari. The Zoo and Night Safari received more than 2.5 million visitors (combined) in 2012. Singapore also recently opened the 101 hectare Gardens by the Bay project, which attracted 1.7 million visitors in its first six months.
The strong performance of the LEGOLAND Malaysia theme park out of the gate (approaching 1.8-2 million in its opening year) highlights the strong potential of the region. Southern Malaysia attractions have been driven by the development of the Iskandar region with LEGOLAND as one of the first anchor catalysts, as well as the Hello Kitty, Little Big Club, and Lat’s Place indoor attractions within the Puteri Harbour project.
The region also has a significant pipeline of projects including the LEGOLAND Malaysia waterpark (2013) and 250-room hotel (in 2014); Desaru Coast, on the southeast coast of peninsular Malaysia, will open “Ocean Quest” (marine park) and “Ocean Splash” (waterpark) and will also have significant resort development (2015+); the Singapore and Malaysia governments are jointly developing an “Urban Wellness” and “Resort Wellness” project in the Medini section of Iskandar, Southern Malaysia; KidZania will open on Sentosa Island in 2015 under the development of Themed Attractions (TA); “Project Jewel, ” a lifestyle development with retail and leisure attractions, at Changi Airport in Singapore; and other theme parks and smaller attractions under consideration in the region.
3. Government support and infrastructure development
Driven in large part by the Singapore Government (Singapore Tourism Board) and Khazanah Nasional (the sovereign wealth fund of the Malaysian Government), the region has seen a rapidly developing road and public transport network to support the creation of a regional theme park and attractions hub.
Singapore has long been the international gateway to the region with the world leading Changi Airport, which served more than 51 million passengers in 2012. Southern Malaysia is also developing its airlift capacity with the expansion of the regional and international capabilities of the Senai International Airport in Johor.
Moving forward Southern Malaysia presents the greatest opportunity for large-scale entertainment development in the region given its significant land resources and the high cost of land in Singapore. As seen in other major theme park and attraction markets, in particular, Southern California and Central Florida, the development of major new parks can have a significant positive impact on a regional economy. The development of Universal Studios Singapore and LEGOLAND Malaysia could have similar effects in Southeast Asia leading to numerous impacts, including: a complementary effect fueling industry expansion; price and product leadership; growing market awareness; improved product positioning; and increasing standards at other parks in the region.
About Entertainment + Culture Advisors (ECA)
Entertainment + Culture Advisors (ECA) is based in Los Angeles (Beverly Hills) and has a regional office in Hong Kong. ECA is focused on delivering Economic Insight for Entertainment Development. Fellow ECA Principals and Co-Founders (Ray Braun and Christian Aaen) have worked extensively in Malaysia and Singapore during the past 15-20 years, including advising on theme park attraction strategy for Khazanah National and Themed Attractions (TA), Genting Group/Universal Studios, LEGOLAND Malaysia, Sentosa Leisure Group, as well as Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on different tourism, leisure and attraction projects. For further information on ECA please visit: www.entertainmentandculture.com
Images from the top:
1. Lost Kingdom dark ride at Legoland Malaysia. Kind courtesy Merlin Entertainments
2. The Lost World – Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure at universal studios singapore resorts world sentosa 1000. Kind courtesy Resorts World Sentosa
3. Entrance facade to Legoland Malaysia. Kind courtesy Merlin Entertaiments.
4. Far Far Away Castle at Universal Studios Singapore. Kind courtesy Resorts World Sentosa .
5. At Songs of Death, witness a starlet's songs of vengeance at Universal Studios Singapore. Kind courtesy Resorts World Sentosa.